Article: Are you working with an Uncle Scrooge?

Employee Relations

Are you working with an Uncle Scrooge?

Holiday season also brings several Uncle Scrooges to the surface in a workplace. This article talks about how to identify them and then how to deal with them.
Are you working with an Uncle Scrooge?

A Christmas tree jingling with bells and smelling of gingerbread at the office entrance; the office floor lit up with bright Christmas lights; the workstation peppered with chocolates and candies, a Santa cap adjacent to the sugar-rush, and a box wrapped with green paper and red ribbon from her Secret Santa – she immediately realized that it was the week before Christmas! But before the festivity of Christmas cakes, gifts, <other features of Christmas>, could completely sink in, she remembered that she would be one of the people to be working in an almost-deserted office during the Christmas and New Year break. Why? Because she (along with one of her colleagues) was late in asking for a leave from her manager who was just finished approving the leaves of the remaining employees, and could not have everyone from the team be absent from office in the upcoming two weeks.

‘She’ could be you in the upcoming weeks of the holiday season. Many of you may already know you are ‘her’ as December the 25th and January the 1st approaches. Such are holiday seasons that there is always a certain kind of ‘Uncle Scrooge’ on hand to spoil all of it for you. One may dump his work on you and elope for a vacation; another may take an unplanned leave and just goes missing; one may drop his big projects on you; and another may come to office but not keep up with the deadlines. 

75 percent employees are stressed during the holiday season by co-workers who “dawdle, dump on, abandon, or fail them.” 

The type 

A research1  done by a leadership consulting firm, VitalSmarts characterizes these traits into multiple personality types. The research, “Do you work with a Scrooge” characterizes colleagues as:

  • The Dumper

     This particular Scrooge drops big projects and/or tasks on you with very little or no notice, and lots of year-end pressure.

  • The Missing

    This Scrooge of a colleague takes unplanned leave, and the (remaining) team at the floor has to take up the slack for her unfinished tasks
  • The Dawdler

    This Uncle Scrooge dawdles around with work, coming in late, walking out early, and leaving the team to cover for him – finishing his mission critical tasks from pending projects which can’t be dawdled upon
  • The Flake

    This Uncle Scrooge doesn’t ask you to finish his work; but him missing deadlines means that it keeps you waiting for him to finish after which you can pick up your work for the project. 

The Impact 

What all the Uncle Scrooges end up doing cumulatively is causing a lot of stress to the employee. The research reveals that 75 percent employees are stressed during the holiday season by co-workers who “dawdle, dump on, abandon, or fail them.” The research argues two outcomes which are an effect of this stress – 

  1. Sneaking out of work when they shouldn’t and feeling stressed about work not getting done.

  2. Staying at work too long and felling stressed about dwindling family time 

These outcomes only further the exasperation of the ones in stress, who become extremely inept at managing work-life – so much so that they end up making a choice between the two, instead of managing the two together – either sneaking out of work and feeling stressed about the piling work, or staying at work at the expense of being with family. 

“The problem is not that we have problems. The problem is that we’re incapable of confronting, discussing, and resolving these problems with others.” – VitalSmarts Research 

The Solution 

What the survey also interestingly found that the people who experience least amounts of holiday stress at work, are “capable of candidly and respectfully discussing the support they need with their boss, spouse or co-workers.” 93 percent of people do not discuss the tough issues, according to the survey. Hence if these 93% have conversations about the tough issues with their peers and managers (like the 7% do), then they stand a chance of relieving themselves of the stress of not being able to manage work and life, especially during the festival season.

Always talk about facts, and never about your perceptions, judgments, or vague conclusions. The same argument can be stated in different ways. 

The research also recommends tips for talking to a “Scrooge co-worker”:

  • Work on you first.

    Objectively assess how your own emotions may be adding to the problem at hand. You may be feeling agitated as it is because of you having to work much more than desirable, and that frustration may be channelized at finding faults in others. The research says, “It isn’t that your co-workers don’t have faults; it’s that most people tend to exaggerate others’ problems and ignore how they may be contributing.”

  • Start with safety.

    Always remember that the objective of the intended conversation is finding a mutually-agreed way to work together and not to pin-point your co-workers failings (of dumping work, or dawdling at it). The study suggests that can be done without “rupturing the relationship if you can help him or her feel safe”. The study recommends to start the conversation with “I have a concern I’d like to discuss. It’s important to me, but it’s also something I think will help us work more effectively. May I discuss it with you?” 

  • Facts first.

    Always talk about facts, and never about your perceptions, judgments, or vague conclusions. The same argument can be stated in different ways. You can choose to be judgmental to “The missing” and say that “You have a habit of disappearing when there is extra work and less capacity closer to the holiday season” or you could simply state the fact politely – “You had committed on the project tracker that you would finish and submit this on Friday. However, you were on an inadvertent leave and unreachable throughout the day, and I had to pick up from where you had left off.”

  • Share concerns and invite dialogue.

    After having laid out the facts, tell him your concerns; encourage your peer to share his, and listen with empathy. The study suggests “sharing your concerns as opinions, not accusations”. 

She talks to the co-workers whose deadlines are now her responsibility after having a conversation with her manager. To her surprise they listen to her. The whole team together work out a solution in which the work is divided as such and deadlines made flexible as such, that she has not too many reasons left to be stressed about at work. To her surprise, the Scrooges don’t say, “Bah Humbug!” 2





  1. "Do you work with a Scrooge?”, VitalSmarts Research


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Topics: Employee Relations

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