Scrooge Is Alive and Well and Living in Silicon Valley


According to the famous first line of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, “Marley was dead.”

Marley may be dead. But Scrooge still lives.

My friend and former journalist, Charles Paolino, points out that, “The key to Dickens’ thinking is in Scrooge’s conversation with Marley’s Ghost, specifically Marley’s lament that during his lifetime he had not allowed his spirit to go out among his fellow human beings, and that in death he was condemned to travel endlessly, observing the pain and want that he no longer has the power to assuage.”

Fast-forward 172 years since Dickens published his novella, and “observe the pain” that seemingly civilized, sensitive authority figures impose on their subordinates.

I write this post after a conversation with a client who was fired from her ranking managerial job at a global company headquartered in Silicon Valley. A company that’s a household name, that claims it is the underpinning of the entire Internet.

Her dismissal came during the celebratory days of Hanukkah—and a week before Christmas.  

My client was a top performer who hit it out of the park every at-bat. The bosses called it “laid off,” which holds out the tenuous hope of being welcomed back at some future better time. But everybody knows know it’s a lame euphemism for “fired.” Just as sure as we know men don’t eat at Hooters for the hamburgers.

Meanwhile, employees on her team who were being reviewed for poor performance are still working.

She was making too much money.

What about pay for performance and motivating employees toward loyalty? What is an employee to deduce when his/her manager is fired because he/she earns too much?

What about the concept of apprenticeship, of younger employees learning from the experience and wisdom of senior people?

What about the corporation’s investment in the intellectual capital of its senior leadership?

What about the milk of human kindness?

When I was a manager at IBM and then at Siemens, a significant part of my responsibility was to recruit people for career employment. Career.

Candidates were not interviewed by six, eight or ten people. I hired directly, with the approval of only my immediate manager. The result of this approach? IBM during my 20-year tenure was known as the best-managed company in the world.

My client’s company is not unique. The practice of jettisoning high-salaried employees seems ubiquitous in corporate America.

They don’t heed Marley’s warning. But they do follow Scrooge’s—to “decrease the surplus population.”


(The image above depicts Jim Carrey as Scrooge in the 2009 Robert Zemeckis version of A Christmas Carol.)


Read my newest book, Fat Guy in a Fat Boat, in print or Kindle from Amazon:

Also available is my e-book, A Light from Within, about the small moments of our lives that seem commonplace until they are examined under a creative lens.

And my weekly reflection on each Sunday of the Jubilee Year of Mercy can be found at:

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