Change Work December 2010

The joy of giving?

It should have been the busiest time of the year at Father Christmas Ltd (Lapland Factory), but all was silent. The Elves were on strike!

Mr Claus the MD ("Big Daddy" to his staff) had announced that there would be no bonuses paid this year "due to the cuts".  But everyone knew it was really to do with the bad publicity he'd been getting about his "fat-cat" lifestyle.  He was reacting by putting the screws on everybody else!

So the Elves had downed tools and were refusing to make a single toy until Big Daddy relented.  BD responded by accusing them of "holding innocent children to ransom".

It was stalemate.

Then one of the Elves knocked on BD's office door.  It was Engelbert Unterknocke, one of the longest-serving workers from the clockwork train department. Engelbert was an eternal optimist.  He saw opportunity in the worst of adversity.  His fellow workers laughed at him and thought he was a mug for believing all of Big Daddy's promises and for seeing the best in everyone.  But he was actually very shrewd and could see exactly what was going on.  He just preferred to look on the bright side.

"We've got to get things moving again or you'll be late with your deliveries this year," he said to BD.  "I know," wailed the old man, "but what can I do?  They all seem to hate me these days!  What's happened to loyalty?"

Engelbert bit his lip rather than comment on who might be lacking in that department.  Instead he climbed up to stand on a chair so he could look down on Big Daddy.  In a firm, no-nonsense voice he said, "OK Big D, here's what you must do."


Engelbert found Hans, the General Secretary of the Christmas Workers and Allied Trades Union, sitting on a packing case composing a letter to Big Daddy.  "Hello Eng," he said.  "I'm just drafting our ultimatum.  I'm going to demand an immediate bonus payment and a pay increase.  I know we won't get either but we need to keep the pressure up."

"Hmm, do you think the lads really want to push things any further?" asked Engelbert.  "I think they mostly feel a bit sheepish about all this. They all enjoy their work and Big Daddy has always looked after them in the past.  They know that business is tough and that Big D wouldn't try to cheat them. They're just upset about the lack of consultation."

"I dunno, there's real anger ..."

Engelbert pressed on, "Now, I think Big Daddy is ready to compromise and give you anything that doesn't bankrupt the company.  So now's your chance to get all those benefits that you've been chasing for years.  You can back down over the bonus and still look like a hero!"

Hans looked at Engelbert suspiciously.  "What?  You mean the free cocoa at break time?"

"Yes, and all the other things as well.  Look, here's a list, and I've had a word with the Goblins in Accounts ..."


Big Daddy gave the good news in person.  Cliff Richard was singing "Mistletoe and Wine" over the tannoy as the Elves gathered in the workshop for the hurriedly arranged meeting.

The announcement of an extra 3 weeks paid summer holiday caused quite a stir.  But what really turned things round was the launch of a job-rotation scheme that gave all of the Elves a chance to train for different roles in the factory.  This had been a longstanding source of dissatisfaction as it seemed that "favourites" were getting the best jobs.  Now everyone was to be treated the same.  And the suggestion-scheme was being re-vamped to pay a significant reward for ideas that saved money or increased productivity.

Cliff was cut off in mid-platitude to cheers from the Elves, who then spontaneously burst into singing "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" as they danced around Big Daddy. The old boy didn't know what to say.  A tear rolled down his rosy cheek.  His voice cracked as he tried to thank them.  "Th-uuu-uk-ooo", was all that came out.

The Elves cheered some more and then turned back to their workbenches with renewed purpose.  Soon the sounds of industry filled the air.  Toys, novelty knitwear and carpet slippers were flowing into the warehouse once again.

Big Daddy looked on benignly.  He patted Engelbert, standing next to him, affectionately on the head as he remarked,  "Sometimes I surprise myself Engelbert.  I don't know where these ideas come from.  It's just good old management experience I suppose."

"Or something ..." murmured the Elf, under his breath.