Guarding Against The Grinch

I’ve never really paid attention to the full-length film version of “How The Grinch Stole Christmas.” I grew up watching the cartoon version and decided to remain loyal to the original through the years.

However, when I was chatting with a friend about this month’s series on Christmas movies, he suggested I take a look at it because “them Whoville people did the Grinch dirty!” The movie version gives a lot of the Grinch’s backstory and I must admit — I can see why the Grinch stole Christmas!

The Grinch was never really fond of Christmas, even as a child. The one year he gets a little smidgen of holiday cheer, it is quickly squashed by some mean kids at school who make fun of the gift he made and his appearance. The Grinch retreats to a cave atop a mountain outside of Whoville and no one expects to hear from him again … until Cindy Loo Who drags him back to make him the Whoville Christmas Cheer-Meister and reconcile the Grinch with the people of Whoville.

Unfortunately, the same jerks who made fun of the Grinch before figure out a way to embarrass and make fun of him again. The Grinch snaps!! That’s when his plan to steal Christmas really takes shape … And, once again, you know the rest of the story.

We deal with Grinches in our workplaces every day. For whatever reason, they don’t fit in or they clash with someone and end up mistreated. They show up in our offices with horrible stories of discrimination, harassment and bullying. Like Cindy Loo, we investigate to find out the cause of the issue and reach out to the Grinch to convince him to give our workplace and its people another chance to get it right. We send our Grinches back to work and assure them everything will be just fine.

But we fail to prepare Whoville or the Grinch for what to expect.

I know first hand that coming back after a serious employee relations issue is tough. It is awkward and uncomfortable for all parties involved. Everyone is hyper-sensitive. And eventually a claim of retaliation will rear its head! Whether that retaliation is real or just perceived is sometimes debatable. In the film, it’s pretty obvious that the Mayor was trying to make the Grinch feel unwanted and unwelcome at the ceremony for the Cheer-Meister … but what about the rest of the Whos? Were they out to hurt the Grinch too — or were they just having harmless fun and legitimately trying to move on from the past?

In the end, whether the retaliation is real or perceived doesn’t matter all that much. Because once your Grinch decides retaliation has happened and goes on the attack, your organization’s Christmas will be stolen!

So what can we do to avoid a Grinch’s wrath?

  • Document, document, document! It’s imperative to appropriately counsel all employees involved in an issue and make it clear to them what is expected going forward — and get it on paper, too. This includes your Grinch! Make it clear where the retaliation line is so everyone can see and steer clear of it.
  • Check up and check in. Sending a Grinch back to Whoville and not periodically checking in to see how things are going is a failure of duty. It might seem like overkill but retaliation likelihood decreases when people know they are being monitored. Random follow-up calls or visits keep everyone minding their manners and focused on the work
  • Leave well enough alone. Sometimes, it is best for everyone involved to leave the Grinch in his cave, rather than bringing him back to Whoville. If an employee leaves and is OK with that resolution, it may be better to let them stay gone — even if they separated because of an egregious issue. You can always deal with the offending employee(s) and not bring the offended employee back. It’s perfectly legal — it just doesn’t feel warm-and-fuzzy to our management minds. But we only increase our liability and make the Grinch suffer greater by reinstating them into an unhealthy environment.

Separation claims resulting from retaliation are expensive, time-consuming and emotionally draining! And rarely do workplaces Grinches have a change of heart. Take the time to protect yourself, your Whoville, your Grinch and your Christmas.

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