Santa's climate survey



Commentary by Gene Kamena and Navy Captain Scott Askins
Air War College faculty


12/7/2012 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Al  -- Is Santa holding on too tight? Has he created a hostile workplace environment?
I'm not saying the big guy is a toxic leader, but he likes being the center of attention, he certainly lacks self-awareness and self-control (just look at him), he always barks orders, he is operationally rigid, and by all accounts, he is in an abusive leader-follower relationship with his own elves.

OK, he might be toxic.

The use of command climate surveys in large organizations, such as the military and Santa's workshop, has been an enduring and effective tool for leaders to garner insights into the health of the organization, as well as indicators on the climate of things such as leadership, cohesion, equal opportunity and morale.

The use of climate surveys is identified as a "best practice" in many successful organizations. The results provide an essential look into the organization, allowing leaders to gain insights and understanding into the organization's environment, as well as to help identify potential challenges.
Below are some redacted highlights from the most recent survey of Santa's workshop:

Self-absorbed: Santa likes power, particularly the power he holds over children and his workers. Santa is clearly an autocrat who leads with an iron fist. He uses fear and intimidation as a tool to affect good behavior over those not directly under his control. There is no place for initiative in Santa's workshop or anywhere else; it is either Santa's way or the "skyway." He even forces his helpers to dress and speak like him.

Entitled: Does not share the profits. He demands sustained superior performance from his organization, yet unethically reaps the fringe benefits (milk and cookies) without even as much as a thought of sharing with his subordinates.

Treats small people (Elves) as a means to an end:
PERSTEMPO is off the chart! He demands the elves work 365 days without a break and has mastered the "divide and conquer" tactic.

Reindeer abuse: Santa apparently really does not like animals. Word around the North Pole is that the white fur on his Santa suit is actually from an Arctic rabbit, an endangered species. He only speaks to the reindeer on Christmas Eve and then only to order them around with terse orders such as, "Dash away, dash away, dash away all." Never a "please" or even a "How are you doing?"

The poor reindeer are breed for one purpose and one purpose only: to carry Santa's excessive mass around the world in one night. It's just not right. Then, when he arrives at his destination, he goes in for milk and cookies, only to leave the reindeer to fend for themselves out in the cold. To make matters worse, he put Rudolph at the head of the team, and everyone knows what a suck-up Rudolph is--morale is indeed low in the reindeer barn.

Has isolated himself from others: Why the North Pole? Santa wants a free hand to drive the elves without any oversight or outside interference. Furthermore, his expectations are unrealistic, but he will not take input, and people are afraid to tell him "no." Ultimately, he has set them up for failure by establishing an unrealistic expectation that even he knows is not feasible.

Maintains a double-standard: Although Santa enforces harsh fitness and appearance standards on the elves, he grants himself lax grooming standards, and he hasn't been seen doing physical training for centuries.

Forces his morality on others: Who is Santa to decide who is naughty or nice? Santa either likes you or he doesn't. With no published standards as to what accounts for being naughty or nice, Santa is free to impose his will and morals as he sees fit. He is out of control.

When Santa finds this climate survey in his stocking, he will merely let out a loud "Ho, Ho Ho!," and laugh that haunting laugh of his. Santa sees himself as driven and passionate; others see him as arrogant and over-bearing. Even those closest to him (elves, reindeer and helpers) are afraid to tell him the truth. Things might change if Santa had to address the findings of this climate survey with his boss. The problem is, however, Santa is not accountable to anyone.

Yes, even Santa must be held accountable for his actions; doing a good job is not good enough. Santa must learn to lead, not drive his reindeer, encourage his elves through personal example, and he must adapt and embrace the tenets of mission command. Let us hope that Santa finds some emotional intelligence neatly wrapped under his tree this year, for he is indeed holding on too tight. ❖