Holiday movies are about as unavoidable this time of year as recycled fruitcake and awkward family photos, and it’s far too easy to get sucked into a holiday movie-watching marathon; however, there’s no reason you can’t learn a little something while enjoying your favorite seasonal films, too. After all, many of these holiday movies actually hold lessons for managers. Or, more specifically, lessons for managers on how not to manage employees. Check out our top examples of holiday movie bosses who definitely belong on the “naughty” list.
The Gimbel’s Manager from “Elf”
Shortly after Buddy the Elf (played by Will Ferrell) arrives in New York City, he wanders into the toy department of Gimbel’s, where the harried boss mistakes him for an employee. As a result of this oversight, Buddy is left free to wreak havoc all kinds of havoc on the store: depleting stock, opening toys and completely rearranging the space to create a welcoming environment for Santa.
While the holiday season can be hectic, the Gimbel’s manager should have been acquainted well enough with his team to recognize a rogue member. Don’t let the high stress of the holiday season distract you from properly managing your employees: Create a holiday schedule well in advance, and hire seasonal employees as early as you can, so you can onboard new hires properly. Preparation and organization are your best defense against management mistakes during the holiday season.
Ebenezer Scrooge from “A Christmas Carol”
In both the classic novella and all resulting film versions, Ebenezer Scrooge is painted as the quintessential bad boss: Stingy, unforgiving and without any sympathy for his employees. The office is intensely cold, and his staff work long hours and holidays – the list goes on. His meager wages have left long-time, loyal employee Bob Cratchit unable to support his family.
Having high expectations for your team is a mark of a good manager, but Scrooge’s expectations go beyond high to completely unrealistic. In order to keep loyal employees happy, managers need to reward them for their hard work. If raises or bonuses are out of the question, consider rewarding them with flexible hours or additional time off at the holiday (provided your business can handle it). Scrooge thankfully realizes the error of his ways – if you find yourself acting in a similar fashion, follow his lead.
George Simmons from “Funny People”
The Thanksgiving dinner scene in “Funny People” is one of the film’s most memorable. In it, Seth Rogan’s character, Ira Wright, has invited his boss, George Simmons, (played by Adam Sandler), to his house for dinner, and George volunteers to say grace. The moment becomes a bit awkward as George, a terminally ill cancer patient for whom Ira is working as an assistant, waxes poetic about his fading youth. While Ira’s intentions for inviting Ira to invite George to Thanksgiving dinner were pure, bringing his boss to to an intimate event – so soon after starting to work together – may not have been entirely appropriate.
The scene underscores the importance of maintaining boundaries in a working relationship. When you start to blur the line between employee and “friend,” it can damage your ability to manage effectively. Or it may give others the perception that you’re playing favorites, which can cause resentment.
Santa Claus from “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”
Not to disparage Santa Claus, but he clearly wasn’t spending enough time with his team if it took an epic fog for him to realize Rudolph’s leadership capabilities. Worse yet, he allowed Rudolph to be ostracized by the rest of the reindeer, something a good manager would never do. A good manager would attempt to make teammates work together, rather than allowing one to be bullied. By taking the time to get to know all his employees, Santa could have realized Rudolph’s potential and made for a much more pleasant working environment for all involved.
Frank Shirley from “Christmas Vacation”
Though the look on Chevy Chase’s face is priceless when his character, Clark Griswold, realizes his Christmas bonus isn’t coming, it was poor form on the part of his boss, Frank Shirley (played by Brian Doyle-Murray), to deviate from tradition without prior notice. Employees count on annual bonuses, and while they’re not guaranteed, it’s good practice to at least explain why changes have been made. Communication is key with any change in policy. Though employees will inevitably be disappointed to hear they will not receive a bonus, they will appreciate (and deserve) the advance notice and – more importantly – an honest explanation. Trying to hide the truth – as Frank Shirley did – can severely damage morale, leading to disgruntled employees and resentment toward the company.
Jonathan Cox from “New Year’s Eve”
The film showcases several different vignettes, and at least one example of poor management. In one scenario, secretary Ingrid Withers (played by Michelle Pfeiffer) is denied a vacation by her unfeeling boss, Jonathan Cox (John Lithgow) – and promptly quits. By being stingy with time off, Ahern Records lost a valuable employee. While quitting may have been an over-the-top response, it’s likely that this last denial was the final straw in a litany of events. While managers can’t bow to employees’ every whim, honoring simple requests should be a no-brainer. If you can’t honor your employees’ request for some time off, give them a reasonable explanation as to why. Though they will be disappointed, they will appreciate your candor.
Tell us: What’s your favorite working relationship from a holiday movie or TV show?