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Why the culture at Santa's Workshop is diabolical

2 min read

Why the culture at Santa's Workshop is diabolical

Think Santa's Workshop is a magical place to work? Think again.

If you liken your office to Santa’s workshop—with happy little Elves, working diligently towards a collective goal—you should stop. Stop right now.

Think about it. There’s no way that Santa’s Elves are happy, and they’re definitely not engaged. They’re working non-stop to produce anything their customers ask for, and they’ve got no opportunity to grow (the Boss is pretty much immortal. He’s going nowhere.)

If the Elves could quit, they would. Unfortunately, they’re barricaded by mountains of snow and are 400 miles from the next human settlement. (Convenient.) Your employees, however, aren’t.

If you want to hold onto your people and grow a thriving, happy workplace, here’s what not to do:

Neglect people to focus on purpose. Sure, the Elves may have once believed in the cause: Make Little Boys and Girls Happy. And this would have fuelled them to work as a cohesive and passionate crew. (Hurrah!) But, at some point, they realized… the customer matters more than they do. Way more. If you want a strong business, you cannot forget about the employee experience.

Allow customers to completely run the business. Look, it’s great that the Elves know what their customers want. However, they’re expected to fulfill every single one of these whims. There’s no push-back or road-map that would increase productivity and efficiency. Instead, the Elves are often pulled in nonsensical and opposing directions! Look at your customer's requests through a holistic business lens.

Overwork your people. The poor little Elves have millions of orders from their customers. While it’s great that they have job security, there’s no reprieve. Especially when every customer wants something new and different every year! Give these little guys (and your people) achievable goals!

Be a ‘black and white’ boss. When you think about it, Santa is a little extreme. This guy classifies people as either naughty or nice. No middle ground. He doesn’t look at the intricacies or talk to you about the problems. He just judges you. As an employer, be sure to confer with employees if there’s an issue or a problem.

Rely on perks to keep people happy. I’ve no doubt that Mrs. Claus’ cookies are the bomb. But cookies—or any other perks and gimmicks—aren’t going to cut it if people are overworked and unhappy. If you want to engage your people, build an effective employee engagement strategy.

Make unnecessary protocols. You know what gets me? The uniforms. The Elves never leave, so there’s no chance people will see them. Yet, they’re forced to wear uniforms. Why can’t they wear what they want (within reason)? In your business, avoid adding unnecessary protocols and red tape. They can leave employees feeling restricted and frustrated.

Working vacations. Due to their remote location, the Elves have just two holiday destinations to choose from: 1) Outside the Workshop. 2) Inside the Workshop. And, with highs of 0°C at the North Pole, it’s unlikely they’d spend too much time outside. This means that the Elves are constantly surrounded by work during their downtime, making it hard to switch off. This a big no-no. It can lead to lower productivity, resentment, and total burnout. Ensure your employees take their time off and truly disconnect!


Look, I don’t think Santa is necessarily a bad guy. He seems pretty jolly (which makes sense when you consider his customer ratings). However, he spends so much time focusing on the customer and the bottom-line that he’s allowed life inside the business to slip. He hasn’t checked in with his employees. It’s time for him to do that. Is it time for you to do the same?

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Hannah Price

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