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Nov 27, 2013

Dickens may have penned A Christmas Carol back in 1843, but the ghost of bad management is still haunting workplaces in 2013.

Nowhere is this more prevalent and on display than in industries that boom in Q4 (i.e. retailing, food service, hospitality, transportation, entertainment, etc.). The make-or-break pressures of managing a business during the holidays can bring out the worst in the best of us..

So if the challenge to increase sales and decrease overhead amidst staggering competition has left you feeling as though you’ve been inhabited by the spirit of Rob Ford, why not go all-in and ensure that your employees hate the holidays as much as you do? you know, share your misery and get some company!

With that as your goal, here are four tactics guaranteed to disengage and demotivate. (Used repeatedly and in the right combination, they will even help you accelerate turnover so you won’t have to downsize at the end of the season!)

Break promises

Here’s an never-fail disengager! Tell a front liner that they can leave early on Black Friday to attend a younger sibling’s Christmas concert. Then, when the lines at the register grow longer than you anticipate, go tap ’em on the shoulder and tell them that you need them to stay late that evening.


You don’t want your labor costs to eat away at your margins, so scale down your staff and crack the whip on those who remain to work a harder and faster.

As customers climb all over each other fighting for that last Bratty Brittany Doll, those frustrations will ultimately be thrown in the direction of your skeleton crew members who are too overwhelmed to solve the problem and too exhausted to care.


Your example is showing and all eyes are upon you. The anxiety and drama of the holiday rush will cause a lot of people (shoppers and employees) to lose their cool, erupt, create drama, and behave badly.

You can add to this, or even kick start it by hollering at your people, getting in their face, and letting your emotions show so everyone knows exactly just how difficult and demanding it is to be the one in charge. Whatever you do, when chaos ensues, don’t remain calm and collected and reason your way through those tense situations as you’re liable to stimulate the same rational behavior on behalf of your team.

Crazy times call for even crazier reactions, so throw back a few Red Bulls first thing in the morning and get ready to rumble!

Crush your closers

The first shift arrives in the morning to a neat and tidy operation with everything in it’s proper place. It’s almost appears as if some magic elves came in at midnight, tidied up, and put everything in it’s rightful place.

But those weren’t elves, Ebenezer. They’re your second (or third) shifters who, by default, inherited the nasty clean up work. And while you (and your first shifters) are at home watching Jay Leno, the evening crew is picking up, cleaning up, straightening up and restoring order to the chaos that has culminated throughout the long day.

Also, remember to pay them the same — or even less than your day shifters, go home before they arrive so you won’t have to give them any real face time, and never schedule them to work a day shift. (They probably don’t like Leno, anyway.)

Note: If, for any reason, these four tactics fail to generate the desired mistrust, hostility and dissension among your workforce, admit defeat, close early on Dec. 24 and throw a festive party for your employees, and realize that Christmas miracles do happen.

This was originally published on Eric Chester’s Reviving Work Ethic blog. His new book is Reviving Work Ethic: A Leader’s Guide to Ending Entitlement and Restoring Pride in the Emerging Workforce. For copies, visit