Elf on the Shelf — at Work?

Image courtesy of Flickr/peapodsquadmom

Is it possible that the walls really do have eyes? Even Santa understands that rewards should not be given unless they are earned, so he created the elf on the shelf — a person whose job it is to fly back to the North Pole nightly to let Santa know whether a child has been naughty or nice. Even young children know Santa can’t be everywhere, but when they see an elf move mysteriously from place to place in the house, it gives more credence to the notion that maybe he does know what children are doing.

I have written much about how organizations pay, promote and recognize employees without knowing what they did to create results. The movie “Working Girl,” featuring Melanie Griffith, beautifully illustrates the problems with this kind of management. If you recall, her boss very easily took credit for her accomplishments. If you have worked long enough, you have probably had a boss, or known one, who was promoted for results that were created in spite of the boss, not because of him or her. I know you have known of employees who bad mouthed the company, were negative about almost any change, and were more disrupting than facilitating when it came to work accomplishments, but who received the exact same bonus as those who did most of the work. Doesn’t seem right, does it?

Maybe it’s time we put an elf on the shelf in organizations, too, so leaders and managers would know what was done and by whom. Employees wouldn’t have to toot their own horns. Nor would they have to spend time worrying if anyone really knows what they are doing and how they contribute to business results.

It’s quite a common occurrence for employees in our client organizations to ask our consultants, “Do you think my boss knows about this?” With a corporate scout elf, you wouldn’t have to engage in behaviors to ensure your boss or others properly recognized you for the value you added to the company. With this out of the way, everybody could instead focus on doing things that added value, and we could leverage each person’s behavior in ways that create greater benefit.

I have an idea. Rather than an elf, why don’t we have a person (a manager, maybe) whose job it is to know these things and to provide the proper consequences that will accelerate these behaviors for everyone’s benefit? If even this ‘elf’ did these seven things, our workplaces would be prosperous, merry and bright all year long.

  1. Make a point of finding something that you like about someone else’s work every day.
  2. Spend more time listening to others rather than talking about yourself, your work or your accomplishments.
  3. Ask questions about the accomplishments of others to learn what was involved, how hard the person worked, and what led them to do what they did (“How did you do that?”).
  4. Take time to appreciate your own contributions. It doesn’t hurt to pretend that someone is looking over your shoulder; allow yourself to feel good about a particular project and what you did to accomplish that project.
  5. Always conduct yourself in such a way that your mother would be proud.
  6. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
  7. Look for the humor in even the most challenging work situations. Laugh often and leave others smiling.

In the end, whether there is a corporate scout elf or not, don’t we owe it to ourselves to be on our best behavior all year round? As the saying goes, “Working hard for something you don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something you love is called passion.”