I cannot remember one time in all the years I have worked here that any leader has bought a cake, or champagne, or any other such thing to celebrate the ending of a work year, or Christmas, or grant funding for the institute, or just to thank employees. We pay for our own Christmas parties; I can recall possibly two after-Christmas parties in recent years that we didn’t pay for; those are no more. But of course when there are birthdays, or births of babies, or weddings or any other such thing—it is the employees who have baked cakes, bought presents and acknowledged the event in some way. And then the leaders show up—to eat cake. They were and are always there to eat cake. But buy one themselves for their workplace? In my group, we have never gotten a Christmas gift of any kind from our group leader. I used to give him one in previous years, but no more. He did comment once when he first stopped receiving anything from me, but that didn’t change my mind. He once commented that he never received a Christmas card from anyone; I asked him if he ever sent any, and he said no. So then I said that there was a great place to start—write some. We in the group however, have always exchanged presents. What a far cry from my lab at UCSF—where my boss not only gave his employees small Christmas presents, but Valentine’s day chocolates and a single-stemmed rose as well. He was (and still is) a thoughtful man. It made me realize that it was possible to be professional and thoughtful—a nice definition of emotional intelligence. My boss at Memorial was the same.
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol comes to mind in these days before Christmas. Scrooge was transformed from a miser in all respects to an emotionally-intelligent man whose heart, like the Grinch's, grew in size in order to accommodate the immense feelings of generosity that suddenly overtook it. He understood that before he died, before his body rotted to nothing in the earth and was forgotten, that he wanted to do some kind things for others. And he did. So it is never too late. My fervent wish for my workplace is that the leaders are visited by ghosts from the past, the present and future, and that they are shaken out of their miserly prisons and personal hells, into some kind of warmth and emotional intelligence, so that they can stop being scrooges in their daily lives. It will be too late for them to undo what they have done to the current generation of employees; but perhaps future employees will benefit from their generosity. What they could do for their older employees is to at least apologize—that would be a start. My fervent wish for myself is freedom, and maybe God will bless me with that in the near future. I can hope. And that is what the Christmas season is about—hope--in the age of cynicism, egoism, me-ism, narcissism, and any other ‘ism’ that has destroyed workplaces, good will, and the happiness associated with doing a good job.