By JIM GALLAGHER Article
“Before we get too cheery, let’s hear some wisdom from a grouchy old cheapskate who took a dim view of the whole season.
“Don’t be cross, uncle,” said the nephew.
“What else can I be,” returned the uncle, “when I live in such a world of fools as this? … What’s Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer … If I could work my will,” said Scrooge indignantly, “every idiot who goes about with merry Christmas on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!’
That exchange, of course, is from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, published in 1843. …
Scrooge was misunderstood. He was really ahead of his time; a 21st century CEO stuck in the horse-and-buggy era.
He knew how to control health care costs. Do you think Tiny Tim got his crutch through the Scrooge & Marley employee medical plan? Not a chance.
Corporate America has spent the last decade shifting the rising cost of health care from itself to its employees, an action quite Scroogy. The average employee lucky enough to have insurance pays 20 percent of the cost, up from 13 percent in 2001, according to Hewitt Associates.
Still, Scrooge knew how to motivate his workers. He made sure the help appreciated the cost of their employee benefits.
“You’ll want all day tomorrow, I suppose?” said Scrooge (to Cratchit on Christmas Eve.)
“If quite convenient, sir.”
“It’s not convenient,” said Scrooge, “and it’s not fair. If I was to stop half-a-crown for it, you’d think yourself ill-used, I’ll be bound?”
The clerk smiled faintly.
“And yet,” said Scrooge, “you don’t think me ill-used, when I pay a day’s wages for no work.”
The clerk observed that it was only once a year.
“A poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every twenty-fifth of December!” said Scrooge, buttoning his great-coat to the chin. “But I suppose you must have the whole day. Be here all the earlier next morning.”
Did you ever wonder where HR got the idea to send you those annual letters totaling up the cost to the company of your wages, health insurance, vacation, pension and such, making you look terribly expensive to keep around? Now you know.
When Cratchit would ask for a couple of lumps of coal to keep warm at his desk, Scrooge would threaten to fire him.
Good pay and earned loyalty may be fine employee motivators, but they’re awfully expensive. Guilt, fear and insecurity will do the trick in a pinch.
Lots of us are feeling a pinch these days. Quite a few of us, including me, took a pay cut rather than risk being cast out into a job market of 9.6 percent unemployment, where the loss of our employee health coverage could turn our kids into Tiny Tims.
Like a modern executive, Scrooge knew that corporations exist to return value to the shareholder — which in Scrooge’s case was himself.”