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A Xmas Bonus

Posted by Denise on 4 December 2011 | 0 Comments

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a short story - exclusive to 'Shine'

by Wix Hutton

“Three customers waiting,” warned Reception. “Drunk. Spirits, I think.”

Bernard hurried past. “Send them along in five minutes.” Scuttling into his office, he wiped sweat off his forehead and groaned, “That did not go well.”

“Typical Christmas staff meeting,” a voice coughed.

Bernard whirled around.

Military uniform, cigar between yellow teeth: an old guy rocked Bernard’s executive chair. “Too much stress, too much booze, then the boss comes up with some stupid Christmas idea. I’ve seen it over and over.”

“And you are …” Bernard cursed Reception for not holding the visitors back.

The yellow teeth grinned. “Spirit of Human Resources Past.” The uniform sighed. “Aaah, memories: when you could solve HR problems by selling employees into slavery.”

“We’ve told you several times.” A woman sitting on Bernard’s office couch checked questions on a survey. “Slavery is not an acceptable solution to today’s HR problems. Hi, Bernard, I’m the Spirit of HR Present. Call me Personnelle. We usually call him Brutus.”

“Or we call him ‘Retirement Beckoned Centuries Ago’. I’m Santa-Santa.” (Bernard stared – was that a woman harnessing reindeer to the sleigh?) “Santa2 for short. Spirit of HR Future. You’ll meet me tomorrow.”

“Wait,” Bernard clutched his head, “I know the Dickens story – aren’t you supposed to visit me one by one?”

Brutus sucked on the cigar. “Efficiency! Taylor was right. Our time-and-motion study found shared visits are more efficient.”

Santa2 added, “And we adapt to circumstance. Which brings us, Bernard, to your problem.”

“I don’t have a problem,” Bernard nearly convinced himself. “It’s my team that has the problem.”

“A more accurate statement than you realise,” said Personnelle. “Let’s recap.”

“I’ll start!” Brutus thumped his boots on Bernard’s desk, snapped his fingers and Powerpoint slides began to play on the wall.

“Hey, that’s my first job!” Bernard saw his younger self cowering before a desk.

“You don’t look happy,” said Brutus.

Bernard watched memories replay. “I complained about smoking in the office and was told to shut up.”

“The way things were.” Brutus puffed smoke rings.

“I left shortly after that,” Bernard remembered, “got my first sales job and never looked back.”

“Never looked back,” Personnelle echoed. “Well, let’s look at more recent history, like five minutes ago.”

Bernard’s desktop clicked up a YouTube clip, showing Bernard and two women sitting around a table. Wincing, Bernard muttered, “I’m not sure I want to revisit this.”

“Yeah,” said Personnelle, “it was painful for us too,” as the clip showed one woman shaking her fist at Bernard. “Wanna give us the highlights?”

“Well – the highlights – the Boss challenged us team leaders as to which sales team can make the biggest Christmas donation to charity. A competition among teams …”

The two women in the clip marched out the door.

“… anyway, my idea was that my team could donate their December sales bonuses to charity. Stella – she likes her bonus, let me tell you – she refused straight away, it all got a bit heated and she and Natalie walked out.”

“Sack them both!” Brutus rocked happily.

Santa2 asked, “Did you ask them why they were about to walk out?” She pulled a cellphone from the gifts piled in the sleigh and tweaked an aerial around a reindeer. “D’you think things could have gone differently? Try this app.”

Bernard watched the phone cam as voices chatted in his ear. “Stella is saying she’s given her bonuses all year to the Red Cross.”

Santa2 adjusted an antler.

Bernard went on, “Now Stella’s saying she thinks we could take more cooperative ideas to the Boss, like the company sponsoring a school pantomime.”

The Three Spirits smirked. Bernard pulled out the earpiece and complained, “Look, I’m willing to try again, but how do I know that my team will stick to the script?”

Santa2 said, “You’ll have to trust them.”

Personnelle said, “Try working on your communication skills.”

Brutus said, “They’re chicks – they’ll lap up the warm fuzzy stuff.”

“That reminds me,” Personnelle frowned, “what about diversity training, Bernard?”

Brutus spat. “Consciousness-raising: a Nineteen-Eighties  fad!”

Personnelle snapped, “Better than Eighteen-Eighties: giving people the chop!”

Santa2 nailed a reindeer-shoe. “Think of it as an HR toolkit – get to know the tools, and choose the right one.”

“I don’t think the Boss ever heard of diversity training,” Bernard mused. “And there’s other stuff that irks me – maybe I could hit him with everything at the same time.”

“Attaboy, Bernie!” Personnelle said, “Put yourself in his shoes. All at once or at different times – alter your timing to his style.”

“And speaking of timing,” Santa2 whispered, “someone is coming to knock on your door.”

Bernard waited for the knock and opened the door to Stella and Natalie. He took a deep breath. “Thank you for coming back,” he said, “and I want to start by saying:  Merry Christmas.”


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