“No man can live happily who regards himself alone; who turns everything to his own advantage. You must live for others if you wish to live for yourself.”
~ Seneca

In Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, The Ghost of Christmas Past transports the cantankerous old miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, back in time to the place Scrooge first had apprenticed as a young man. There, they look on as Scrooge’s former boss, Fezziwig, commences an evening of festivity:

“Old Fezziwig laid down his pen, and looked up at the clock, which pointed to the hour of seven. He rubbed his hands; adjusted his capacious waistcoat…laughed all over himself and called out in a comfortable, oily, rich, fat, jovial voice [for the room to be cleared out and made ready for the party.]”

As a steady stream of invitees came in to the party, a fiddler began to play. Guests danced, feasted, and laughed together in a mood of warmth and merriment. The revelry stretched long into the night with the thankful partygoers relishing every moment together…

While watching on, Scrooge had been transfixed by the memory of the evening. “His heart and soul were in the scene, and with his former self. He corroborated everything, remembered everything, enjoyed everything, and underwent the strangest agitation.” As the hubbub of the party began to subside, “Scrooge suddenly remembered the Ghost, and became conscious that it was looking full upon him.”

“A small matter,” said the Ghost, “to make these silly folks so full of gratitude.”

“Small!” echoed Scrooge.

“Why! Is it not? Fezziwig has spent but a few pounds of your mortal money: three or four perhaps. Is that so much that he deserves this praise?”

“It isn’t that,” said Scrooge, heated by the remark, and speaking unconsciously like his former, not his latter, self. “Fezziwig has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. His power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count them up…The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.”


Ebenezer Scrooge, cold-hearted and stingy, begrudged giving away even the tiny piece of coal his clerk used to heat his hands during wintertime. Oppositely, Fezziwig exuded joy and liberality, hosting and presiding over an evening of merrymaking to celebrate Christmas along with his employees. The two men could hardly have been more different as managers. For Scrooge, moneymaking ruled out merrymaking and was the sole object of his existence. Fezziwig, on the other hand, prized his people and took great joy in bringing them happiness over the holidays.

Relationships are like anything else in life: the return you get depends on what you invest. The great news is that the investment doesn’t have to be expensive! We, like Fezziwig can build relationships by unselfishly giving “things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count them up.”

Your budget may not allow you to issue year-end bonuses or to throw a party for your teammates, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to show appreciation for them. Do some sleuthing to discover more about your co-workers. Learn their likes, interests, tastes, and hobbies. As 2012 begins, repeatedly invest in your workplace relationships in small ways such as buying someone their favorite drink from Starbucks, taking them out for lunch, or remembering and celebrating their birthday. Over time, your consistent, intentional efforts will deepen your relationships with others, and you will gain greater influence and enjoyment at work.

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