Retailers react differently than others to movies like You’ve Got Mail (you did cry during the scene when Meg Ryan’s shop closed, didn’t you?) and plays like A Christmas Carol.  Every year I am moved by the contrast between Scrooge and his early employer, Fezziwig — and reminded about the importance of being  a good boss.

In case you didn’t get to see a production this season, or had time to reread the original story by Dickens, Fezziwig makes his appearance when the miserly Scrooge — a cheapskate who is cruel to his employees — revisits the site of his first job during the annual holiday celebration in the warehouse.  All the employees put their work away and joins in the feasting and dancing with Fezziwig, his wife and his daughters.

Scrooge is touched by the sight of his early employer, and remarks: “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.”

Are you a Scrooge or a Fezziwig to your employees? Small gifts and treats can show that you recognize your staff’s contribution to your business, and words of praise (“words and looks”) can go a long way to making them feel appreciated.  Offering flexible hours, reasonable salaries and satisfying work shows that you respect the role that their retail job plays in their lives. 

As Carey Smith says in his Inc. blog, There’s more to [treating your employees well] than money–it’s about fun, it’s about employees bonding, it’s about appreciation. That’s how the holidays should be at work. Make your employees think of you as a Fezziwig, not a Scrooge, and someday they’ll treat their own employees that way too.

A Christmas Carol shows us that the greatest benefit of being a kindly employer is not to the employees but you as the shopkeeper or manager.  We see a different man in Scrooge at the end of the play when he forgives Bob Cratchit for a small transgression, allows him to put more coal on the fire and gives him a raise.  The happiness he gives — and receives — “is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.”

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder

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