A Tale of Two Christmases
Christmas will be past when this is posted. That doesn't mean I can't have a Christmas topic. In this case I refer to the annual Christmas party. Yes, it's time for the big event where everyone sits around and overeats. I don't know about anyone else, but I hate the things. I'm not a party person. I look for reasons to not attend. I don't like Christmas cookies. I'm not fond of eggnog. To me, putting a Santa hat on someone just makes them look funny. Still, tradition is hard to fight. Every year I'm exposed to some version of Christmas cheer. Two recent parties come to mind. Both were sponsored by facilities. Both were open to everyone. Only one of them had any kind of Christmas feeling. The difference wasn't in the party but in the message it gave.
Last year I was a manager so I had some knowledge of the party planning. It's not a good sign when the priority is having the party at a time when no one is on the clock. I'm not sure what they thought we were going to do. No one ever stays very long at those things. The decision was made to have it after hours. Could they make it any less convenient? People have lives outside of work. They have obligations. Sometimes it's just not possible to stay late even for a good reason. The party was catered and held in a rented conference room. The entire attendance was upper management and the department heads. We stood around looking at each other trying not to be the first one to leave. Nothing screams Christmas like finger sandwiches-limit two-warm punch and dead air. What were they thinking? I still don't know.
This year the party I attended was held at lunch. When I say lunch I mean turkey, ham and all the fixings-including cold sodas, ice tea and coffee. It was catered but held on site. Management worked the serving line. Seconds were encouraged. No one looked at the time clock or reminded anyone that there was work to be done. The room was packed. The biggest problem was finding a seat. The nursing staff bent over backwards to make sure everyone got to go and eat. This one screamed Merry Christmas and it cost a lot less.
Obviously there is more to this picture than meets the eye. These parties reflected what was going on inside the facilities. On one hand, we have Scrooge counting every penny. On the other we have Santa saying, "Come on in!" On one hand, morale was low. On the other everyone was happy. The first place had (and still does) a chronic problem with staff retention. The second place rarely has turnover. Something else is going on. The first place truly meant to have a nice party for the staff. The problem was the staff didn't see it that way.
That is the problem. Management and workers don't agree. In a world of budget cuts and poor reimbursement, everything revolves around the bottom line. Employees have stopped being a valued asset. Instead, they are a line item cost. Both sides know this. In the case of the parties, the difference was in the presentation. The second place could have told everyone there wasn't much money so all they would do is buy lunch. Instead, they made it an event an encouraged everyone to come and eat. No one got any overtime. The patients continued to be cared for. Everyone had a nice lunch. Having the party after work so people will clock out first sends the wrong message. The employees weren't mad about not getting overtime. They were upset about how they perceived they were being treated. No one expected much. While the intentions were good, the message it sent was the wrong one. It's sad how such a joyous holiday causes so many hurt feelings.