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Another Shameless Christmas Carol Rip-Off
It was Christmas Eve, 2006. George Putnam, the CEO of The Jackson Corporation, was in his office. The Jackson Corporation is a medium sized company. At 3 o’clock George stepped out of his office to wish a Happy Holidays to the employees at their office spaces. George walks through rooms of mostly vacant work spaces. Most employees left before the official 3:30 release time. George cheerfully greeted the employees still in the office. While making his visits he took a shortcut through the basement storage room. There he passed the life size statue of the company founder, Beauregard Jackson. Beauregard Jackson started The Jackson Corporation in 1919. The bronze statue has Jackson with an outstretched hand pointing his index finger. Jackson has a stern face and wire rimmed glasses. George hated that statue and one of the first things he did as CEO was to move the statue from his office area to the basement. For a moment George thought the statue was looking and pointing its finger at him. That confirmed to George he made the right decision to move this monstrosity to the basement.
It was dark when George drove home. As he drove along an old winding one lane road he thought he saw someone on the side of the road pointing at him. As he came close he saw it was just a bare tree. When he opened his garage door it looked as if there was a figure inside pointing at him. A moment later he saw there was nobody there. His eyes were playing tricks on him.
After quite dinner George and his wife watched television. At 10 o’clock his wife decided to go to bed. She said she was too tired to stay up until midnight. She told George “goodnight” and gave him a peck of a kiss. George changed the channel to an old black and white version of A Christmas Carol. It would run from 10 till midnight. That would take George into Christmas Day. Shortly after the first commercial George drifted in and out of sleep. In a short dream Beauregard Jackson was pointing. George wakes up and sees Jacob Marley making his entrance. Marley’s moaning has an odd echo he never remembers hearing.
He sees a figure in the shadows. He initially assumes it’s his imagination. Then the figure comes into view. George yells out for his wife to call 9-1-1. The figure yells above George’s voice, “It doesn’t matter how loud you yell no one can hear you.”
“What do you mean?”
“Look at the television screen.”
There is no sound from the television and the image is frozen.
“There’s the telephone, call 9-1-1.”
George keeps an eye on the figure as he gets up and walks quickly to the telephone. He clicks on the telephone but there is no sound.
“What’s going on?”
The figure turns on a light switch, it’s Beauregard Jackson. He is wearing the same style of suit as the statue of Beauregard Jackson.
“Do you know who I am?”
“You look like Beauregard Jackson, but that’s not possible.”
“I am Beauregard Jackson. I’m long dead but your actions have been haunting me in the afterlife.”
“Wait a minute, I give generously to charity and do volunteer work.”
“I’m not interested in your personal business. I’m interested in my business.”
“The business I founded and built from nothing with my own two hands. The business you are doing a pathetic job of running.”
“The company showed a 4% profit this year.”
“My business showed a 4% profit in 1930. In this economy you should be showing double digits.”
George takes a quick glance at the television screen.
“So what, am I to be visited by three spirits?”
“What I have to show you I’m going to show you myself. An important thing I learned in life is if I want something done right I should do it myself.”
George gives a smirk, “So, show me.”
“Yes, let me show you the past.”
“No, this past year is about as much of your foolishness as I can stand. Now come.”
The Year Past
Beauregard leads George out the front door. George steps into his office building. A few people are in the office but most of the cubicles are empty. The wall clock reads 10:15. It is snowing outside.
Beauregard states, “This is January.” He points to the wall clock. “It’s after ten and hardly anyone is here.”
George shrugs, “This is the day of the snowstorm.”
Beauregard sternly states, “There was 4 inches of snow this day. Less than half the people showed up and most of those that did were more than 2 hours late.”
George retorts, “Safety trumps what we do here.”
“In my time the cars weren’t anywhere nearly as safe or reliable and people still made it on time.”
They enter another office area. The wall clock reads 1:20. There are snow flurries outside. There are three people in the office. One man puts on his coat and leaves.
Beauregard, “Perhaps you remember this day in February?”
“This is the day I released everyone at 3 o’clock because of the impending snowstorm?”
“The snowstorm that never came, the accumulation was less than an inch.”
He points to the wall clock. “Three o’clock my eye.”
“Some people take late lunches.”
Beauregard looks over the top of his glasses at George.
They step into an elevator and go to the third floor. They step out into an office area.
The wall clock reads 2:30. The trees visible through the office windows have buds. There are 6 people in the office and two of them walk out the door.
Alfred quickly scans the office, “Is this Good Friday?”
“I released everyone at 3 o’clock.”
Beauregard points at the wall clock. George sees the time and gives a shrug.
“Do you really think these people went to church? If they did half the churches in the city would have collapsed.”
“These are a couple hours in a few special days out of a year they don’t make a difference.”
“Everything makes a difference.”
They walk into another office area. The trees outside are in full bloom. The clock on the wall reads 10:17. The office is full.
“This is a typical work day in June.”
George gives a smug smile, “You see. The office is full.”
“Let’s see more.”
They walk to one desk. The man is reading a sports story on the internet. They come to anther desk where two women are talking about their home life. At another desk a man talks with a woman about the latest episode of a television show. At another desk a woman is having a telephone conversation with her husband about the color they should paint their living room. At another station a man is flirting with a woman. A woman walks over to her supervisor asks for, and gets, permission to leave work early.
Beauregard leads George into the break/supply room. The wall calendar reveals it is September.
A man walks into the break room. He scans the room then takes a box of pens and a box of pencils. After he leaves a woman walks in and pores herself a cup of coffee. She glances around then puts a box of hot chocolate mix inside her handbag. She scans the room again and puts a handful of highlighters and a box of pencils in her bag. After she leaves a man walks in and takes a package of yellow pads.
Beauregard calmly tells George. “A quarter of the office supplies in the building ended up as school supplies.”
They exit the break room and step into another office area. The clock on the wall reads, 3:05. Most of the people in the office are putting up Halloween Decorations.
“This is the Halloween Party.”
“This is the day before the Halloween Party. This is normal work hours. Productivity lost in an effort that by design is to lose productivity.”
“Such things are done to increase morale and so increase productivity.”
“The first part happens the second part never does.”
Beauregard leads George into a stairwell. An alarm blares as costumed people make their way down the stairwell and out of the building. They walk into the parking lot assembly areas. The parking lot is full of people in all manner of costumes.
“Do you remember what caused this false alarm?”
George looks down and sheepishly replies, “One of the offices used dry ice as part of its decorations. This triggered a smoke detector.”
Fire engines arrive at the scene.
“This act of foolishness cost the company $10,000.”
The fire marshals wave the people back into the building. Beauregard and George walk with the crowd.
When they enter the building the crowd is gone. During their flight up the steps six people walking down the steps passed them. When they reach the office door two more people walk out. They enter a large conference room. A few people are picking at the food on the table.
George turns to Beauregard. “This is the Thanksgiving Party.”
“The Thanksgiving Party was supposed to be from noon till 2 o’clock. People spent the morning getting ready for the dinner. Then they spent the afternoon stuffing themselves at the party. When they had enough food they went home. Yet another day of lost productivity.”
George is unimpressed by what Beauregard has shown him.
“The only thing you have convinced me is that your concept of management is decades out of date. Accepting minor losses is part of doing business. Your time and management practices are past.”
“You don’t like the past then let me show you the present.”
Beauregard leads George outside the building. They are at a hotel entrance. It is a sunny day. George knows it is where the company had its Christmas Party. Two men he recognizes as his employees walk into the hotel entrance.
Beauregard leads George inside the hotel. About a dozen people are in the hotel lobby. Beauregard points to the wall clock. It shows 7 minutes past 11.
“The Christmas Party was supposed to start at 12.”
“People have to allow for traffic.”
“They never allow for traffic when it means getting to work on time.”
Beauregard opens the door to the party room. The party is in full swing. People are taking generous portions of food from the luxurious buffet table.
“You spared no expense as usual.”
“My employees are worth it.”
“You are the CEO of a business, not a charity. You don’t give away things without expecting a return on investments. Has anyone ever asked you about the company Christmas Party during a job interview? Do you know of anyone who quit a job because the hors’ de verves were second rate?”
Beauregard leads George out an emergency exit. George looks shocked.
Beauregard shakes his head, “It’s not going to alarm. I was wondering when something was going to disturb you.”
They are at the intersection of the main road outside the hotel.
“In case you have forgotten this way is back to the office and that way leads to most of your employee’s homes.”
Five cars go in the direction of home. One car turns towards the office. George turns to Beauregard. Beauregard retorts before George can comment.
“He is one of the few that lives that way. He is going home. A lavish party for an entire afternoon of almost zero productivity.”
Beauregard turns around and leads George to a department store. Inside the Department store there is a man and a woman shopping. George recognizes them. They are Bob and Carol Crachit, a married couple who work for The Jackson Corporation.
George turns to Beauregard, “They are married but they work in different departments.”
Beauregard cuts George off, “Which made it easier for both of them to call in sick the same day.”
George exhales, “They called in sick to go Christmas shopping?”
Beauregard, “That’s right.”
Beauregard leads George out of the department store and into a nightclub.
Beauregard asks, “You gave your secretary, excuse me, administrative assistant the afternoon off so she could spend it with her family?”
“You know that’s what I did.”
“I do, now let me show you what she did.”
His administrative assistant is at a table with four other women. She laughingly says, “I told my boss I wanted to go home to be with my family.”
Her friend and co-worker remarks, “You’re terrible.”
“He’s is such a sentimental fool. What did you tell your boss?”
“I didn’t tell him anything, he left before I did.”
The women laugh.
Beauregard leads George to the men’s room. “I think this is an appropriate place to go to show you where your lax policies will lead.”
They step into the company parking lot. The trees are bare and the sun is shining. The parking lot is about 1/4 full.
Beauregard speaks in a low tone. “In your present on this time of day the lot would be 1/4 empty instead of 1/4 full.”
Beauregard steps inside the building. George hesitantly follows him. They walk past the empty receptionist desk. Beauregard remarks, “One cost savings measure was to do away with the receptionist. I know what you want to see.”
Beauregard leads George to the door of a janitor’s closet. He motions for George to go inside. George walks to the door then hesitates. Beauregard abruptly opens the door and pushes George through the portal.
George finds himself outside at the entrance to his office. Beauregard opens the door wide. George sees himself seated at the desk typing on his computer. George doesn’t see any change from what he is doing in the future than what he does in the present.
“I don’t get it. I don’t see anything different.”
“You still haven’t learned to look at what is happening outside your office.”
Beauregard points to the Administrative Assistant’s desk.
“What happened to her?”
“Downsizing, she was laid off. You anguished over the decision for a while. You gave her your regrets. That didn’t change the fact she was out of a job in a bad economy.”
Beauregard opens a window and motions for George to come to the window. As George approaches the window Beauregard explains. “Often times, subordinates have to pay the price for poor management.”
When George reaches the window Beauregard pushes him out.
He finds himself inside a small conference room. Bob Crachit is in the room with a young woman. The woman tells him she’ll be back in a few minutes and steps out of the room.
George turns to Beauregard.
“Yes, Bob and Carol Crachit were downsized. This is a job interview.”
The woman returns with a middle aged man. He hurriedly tells Bob Crachit, “I’ve got two stronger candidates who are coming for interviews this morning. I’ll show you out.”
The man shows Crachit the door. Crachet, the man, and the woman leave the room. George turns to Beauregard.
“What just happened?”
“You remember Bob and his wife calling in sick to go Christmas shopping?”
Beauregard steps to a console. “How do these newfangled things work? Oh yes!”
The flat screen in a conference room turns on. The scene is a golf course. The budding trees reveal it’s early spring. Bob Crachit makes a drive just as two men drive to the hole in a golf cart. The passenger steps out and walks quickly to Bob.
“You called in sick today.”
“Well I’m feeling much better now.”
“Good, you’ll be healthy enough to find a new job. You’re fired.”
Beauregard explains, “The bad work ethic he developed while working for you made him ill prepared for his next job. This firing made him a poor employment candidate.”
Beauregard leads George out of the conference room.
George finds himself inside a department store entrance. The greeter is a man who looks in his 50s. The face looks familiar but he can’t put a name to it.
They walk past the greeter. Beauregard turns to George, “Do you know that greeter?”
“The face looks familiar. I suppose I’ve seen him when I came in this store before.”
No, he used to work for The Jackson Corporation. He was one of those people you see all the time in the hallway but never talk to. He was a hard worker. He had 22 years with the company. His hard work, experience, and loyalty didn’t prevent him from being downsized. So at 55 he was out of a job and had a skill set that wasn’t a match for any other job. This greeter job is the best he could get after a 10 month job search.
George sheepishly asks, “This future can be changed, right? This is what might happen, not what will happen?”
Yes and no. The economy will take a downturn and have a slow and sluggish recovery. There is nothing you can do about that. The only thing you can do is prepare The Jackson Corporation to weather the hard times. This will help my company and the people who work for it.
George finds himself on the couch in his living room. A morning television show is on. His wife has on a robe. “You fell asleep on the couch again.” She turns on a radio that is playing Christmas music.
George feels depressed. He knows he has to do a lot of work.
It is 9:18 AM on Tuesday, December 26, 2006. His administrative assistant strolls into the office.
George, in a calm, serious voice tells her, “Step into my office please.”
When she steps into his office he tells her to close the door.
Your office hours start at 9 o’clock, not 9:01, much less 9:18. You are expected to allow for traffic or any other foreseeable delay in order to get here no later than 9 o’clock. Do not let this happen again. Now arrange a meeting with the department heads today. There are many changes we have to make.
George Putman spent the next year improving The Jackson Corporation’s profit margin by increasing discipline and operational economy. Some people left the company in disgust and many of them regretted their decision when the economy took a downturn. George Putnam was not a popular CEO but The Jackson Corporation weathered the economic downturn and only a few of its employees were laid off.