5 HR Lessons from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

In this classic movie, Clark Griswold Jr. has the perfect family Christmas in mind. The only problem is all his plans seem to go awry. Amid all the chaos in this holiday classic, there are a number of hidden HR lessons to be learned.

1.     Turn Setbacks into Opportunities

After all of Clark’s careful plans, his sloppy cousins arrive from Kansas, uninvited, with their dilapidated RV and rude children in tow. Instead of letting it ruin his family’s perfect Christmas, he could turn a setback into an opportunity. Every setback is ultimately an opportunity in disguise. You simply need to view the event in a different light and approach the situation from a new angle.


2.    Go With the Flow

It’s not always effective to browbeat your way to get what you want. It’s often better to roll with the punches, and take the good with the bad. Rather than get upset when Clark’s Christmas lights never seem to work, or when the Christmas turkey explodes, it’s certainly much better to make the best of the situation and roll with it. Many circumstances are often beyond your control. When change comes, it’s best to embrace your new environment and become an early adopter.


3.    Find the Silver Lining

Life is full of unforeseeable events and occasional setbacks. However, every new development is a chance to learn, and adjust your strategy. When the Christmas lawn ornaments are blown into the sky by Cousin Eddie’s toxic sewage buildup and the elderly Aunt Bethany starts singing the Star Spangled Banner, it certainly makes for a memorable Christmas. Maybe nothing went as planned, but I’m sure all the guests will always remember the Christmas that ended with Aunt Bethany singing the Star Spangled Banner while the lawn ornaments sailed through the sky like Santa’s sleigh. In life, and in HR, there is almost always a silver lining—you just have to look for it.


4.    Take a Deep Breath

Clark lets every little change in plan get to him—the Christmas lights never seem to stay on, he accidentally breaks the neighbors’ window and high-end stereo with an icicle, the Christmas turkey bursts, Uncle Louis burns up the Christmas tree, and then finally, when Clark’s stingy boss gives him a membership to the Jelly of the Month Club instead of his usual Christmas bonus, Clark snaps. This leads to Clark’s boss, Frank Shirley, being kidnapped and brought back to the Griswold household. Many times, it’s necessary to take a deep breath in order to put things back in perspective. Christmas isn’t about the lights, or the tree, or the turkey—it’s about family and appreciation. In HR, sometimes you need to step back and take a deep breath in order to see the big picture.


5.    Don’t Operate in a Vacuum

Listen. Those around you will often give you tips on how to improve processes and initiatives, but only if you are receptive to their feedback. Clark’s family asks him if he’s going too far by stringing 25,000 lights onto the house, or if he’s being overly ambitious by choosing a Christmas tree that’s too big to fit in the front yard, let alone in the living room. The family Christmas, just like HR, can be greatly improved by listening to the ideas and input of those around you. There’s no point in working hard to implement a solution that no one wants. It’s important to be receptive to the business needs of those around you, and act with those requirements in mind.

Now that you’ve had a good dose of Clark Griswold’s HR lessons, go enjoy the holidays!


Christian Monaghan is an HR Consultant at SharedHR – an HR software and consulting firm that specializes in serving small and medium-size businesses. He regularly blogs on technology, employee engagement, and HR trends on the SharedHR blog.


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