three hands holding fourth of july sparklers

I recall one past holiday season, heading straight to a local pub (don’t judge, it was 5 p.m. somewhere) after finishing a whirlwind day of shopping with my hubby. We cozied up to the warm, friendly bar and I ordered a Dark and Stormy.

The woman sitting next to me spoke up. She asked me what I was drinking – because that was going to be her next choice on the road to getting very drunk. As I turned to answer, I noticed she and her husband were all dressed up for what look like a night of celebration and, yes, she was on her way to new levels of “tipsytude.” I had to ask, “Why do you feel the need to overindulge before your night of celebration?”

Her response was:

“We are heading to our office holiday party and it is going to be awful. I know our boss is going to give us all a tiny bonus, even though we have had the best year ever! I personally brought in over $140,000 this month and I have half a mind to rip up the bonus right in front of him.”

You know, I would lose my consulting credentials if I didn’t ask where she worked. Of course, her response was ... wait for it ... I am a treatment coordinator for a cosmetic dentist! Once she knew I was a member of the “dental tribe” she let loose with a ton of grievances (with her husband adding his two cents, as well):

  • The doctor treats everyone the same, even though some of us work much harder, with much bigger results
  • I haven’t had a raise in years and I’m worth it
  • He makes so much money and is stingy
  • He has favorites
  • We have a horrible, unwinnable bonus plan that we can never achieve that was set up by a consulting company
  • All of us feel the same way
  • I’m going to have to leave the dental profession

I liked this woman! She was passionate about her job, articulate in her concerns and sincere in her perception of her role in her dentist’s success. From my estimation (even before I had finished my drink) she deserved to be grown, acknowledged, inspired and rewarded.

I can only imagine her doctor’s surprise (and elevated “pisstivity”) when he gets lukewarm responses to his holiday dinner. Or worse, when she ultimately gives her notice. Honestly it was my own version of “A Christmas Carol” playing out right in front of me. This dentist and his team were at a crossroads and my educated guess was that, unfortunately, no real change would occur.

Next year, it could be a different team member at that bar, but he or she will probably have the same issues!

My challenge to you is, of course, learn from this holiday tragedy this season. Communicate, acknowledge, reward and compensate each person on your team. Do not homogenize the group! And make sure no one feels the need to self-medicate before your upcoming holiday celebrations.

Amy Morgan is Vice President of Consulting Strategy, a member of Spear Resident Faculty and former CEO of Pride Institute.