Employee Engagement, Life at Work


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Neal McNamara

Neal has spent a decade working as a newspaper reporter, which is one of the worst jobs in America job according to some career websites, but he actually likes it a lot.


Christmas is a time of cheer, gifts, vacations, and tales of morality. Christmas movies tend to be message-heavy, but we wanted to go a little deeper and find movies that touch on common workplace and employee engagement issues.

It was a little hard, because most Christmas movies don’t take place at work (because of the whole vacation thing). But we’ve discovered a few examples of Christmas teaching us a lesson about how to behave at work.

1. Gremlins (1984)

8_Christmas_Movies_That_Take_Place_at_a_Workplace_2SOURCE: tumblr.com

Afflicted workers: a bank teller, antiques dealer, bartender, and an inventor

Workplace: various

In this Christmas creature feature, the terror begins with just one irresponsible worker. The grandson of an antiques shop owner sells Gizmo, the cuddly progenitor of the Gremlin horde, against the wishes of his grandfather and boss. That one small act begets mayhem, including the destruction of an entire movie theater and part of a department store. So, you should always listen to your boss – especially when it comes to selling fantastical creatures that have the ability to spawn bloodthirsty demons.

2. Black Christmas (1974)

8_Christmas_Movies_That_Take_Place_at_a_Workplace_3SOURCE: giphy.com

Afflicted workers: House mother, students

Workplace: Sorority house

When a killer stalks a sorority house killing sisters in the days leading up to Christmas, the one person charged with ensuring the safety of the students is asleep at the wheel. The sorority house mother slacks off and makes one big mistake that enables the killer to keep killing. So, if you’re slacking off a bit due to the holidays, think again — little mistakes at work can actually be a really big deal.

3. Home Alone (1990)

8_Christmas_Movies_That_Take_Place_at_a_Workplace_4SOURCE: giphy.com

Afflicted workers: customer service representatives

Workplace: airport

Forget about Kevin McCallister and his aftershave mishap; forget about the Wet Bandits; forget about Buzz and his tarantula, and forget about Old Man Marley. Consider this: Kevin’s mother is treated to the worst customer service in the world as she scrambles to get home to her son. Theemployees of the airlines that don’t do anything to help her are clearly not engaged at work. I wonder if they would’ve behaved differently had their employer invested more in workplace happiness?

4. Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990)

8_Christmas_Movies_That_Take_Place_at_a_Workplace_5SOURCE: tumblr.com

Afflicted workers: police, janitors

Workplace: Washington-Dulles International Airport

Yes, yes — the first Die Hard is a classic. But this sequel has something that the first film didn’t. As John McClane tries to defeat a band of terrorists who have taken over an airport on Christmas Eve, an airport janitor guides McClane to success. This just proves how important it is to keep your employees happy so they stick around for a long time. They may never kill a terrorist, but institutional knowledge is invaluable in killing big projects.

5. Step Brothers (2008)

8_Christmas_Movies_That_Take_Place_at_a_Workplace_6SOURCE: giphy.com

Afflicted workers: entrepreneurs

Workplace: a startup called Prestige Worldwide

In this film about step brothers Brennan Huff and Dale Doback launching their startup, Prestige Worldwide, most of the action takes place before Christmas. But the climax of the film begins on Christmas Eve. Upset that the brothers ruined his sailboat (Dale and Brennan crashed it while filming a promotional music video), the brothers’ father ruins Christmas by going on a scotch and cheesecake binge at the Cheesecake Factory. This incident creates a rift in the family, which leads to the brothers ending up homeless. But they survive and in the process gain the maturity they need to achieve their dreams – a classic story of entrepreneurial heroism.

6. Scrooged (1988)

8_Christmas_Movies_That_Take_Place_at_a_Workplace_7SOURCE: giphy.com

Afflicted workers: TV execs

Workplace: TV studio

If you’ve ever had a nasty boss, you’ll immediately recognize — and cringe at —  the anti-hero of this take on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Bill Murray plays Frank Cross, a slime ball TV executive who is unendingly cruel to his employees, even though he expects them to work hard for him. As in Dickens’ original story, the boss is able to redeem himself through charity and self-reflection. Too bad it doesn’t happen that way in real life.

7. Roger & Me (1989)

Afflicted workers: auto workers

Workplace: General Motors plant

This documentary explores the deterioration of Flint, Mich., as the largest employer in the city, General Motors, shuts factories and lay off workers. The most famous scene in this movie involves a city resident who breeds rabbit for meat, an extreme example of survival. But if you watch this during Christmas, there’s one scene you won’t be able to forget: director Michael Moore intersperses scenes of a sheriff evicting people on Christmas Eve (and throwing all their possessions, including Christmas trees and gifts, out into the street) with General Motors executives enjoying a lavish Christmas party.

8. Fargo (1996)

8_Christmas_Movies_That_Take_Place_at_a_Workplace_8SOURCE: giphy.com

Afflicted workers: salesman, cops, painters, mechanics, Jose Feliciano

Workplace: multiple

Although Fargo doesn’t take place during Christmas, it’s set during winter, which makes it feel like a holiday film. Inside this film about a kidnapping gone wrong, there are three characters who embody common employee types. Jerry Lundegaard is a dishonest car salesman who’s not afraid to lie and steal at work to get what he wants: money. Marge Gunderson, the pregnant and morally pure local police chief, dedicates herself to her task of catching the bad guys, even if means risking her own life. Finally, Norm Gunderson, Marge’s husband, is a soft-spoken painter who is enormously creative, but shy and doubtful of his talents. In the end, the work ethic and focus of Norm and Marge handily defeat Lundegaard’s dishonesty.

Did we miss any? If so, let us know in the comments section below!


Neal McNamara

Neal has spent a decade working as a newspaper reporter, which is one of the worst jobs in America job according to some career websites, but he actually likes it a lot.

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