Christmas is a paradox for me. On the one hand, it’s incredible that in 2022 there’s still a day when nearly every business shuts down (though spare a thought for those that do work). On the other hand, we grin and bear people who we choose not to spend most of our year with. I do get quite sick of doom scrolling through Instagram posts of happy families as I sit quietly trying to survive the storm.  

Having said this, I do like Christmas. I like the lights bringing cheer to long, dark nights. I like the Christmas animations on TV. I like having an excuse for a party. It’s the one time of year when some level of humanity has been widely excusable in the work world, and so I was somewhat saddened to read an article recently questioning the validity of Christmas gifts. Corporate jobsworths – keep your hands off Christmas.  

The article suggested that Christmas gifting is not just unethical but is also illegal. It referenced the Bribery Act (2010) and claimed that attempts to influence business decisions through gifting should be frowned upon and, ideally, banned. The despicable irony is that at the top of the decision-making pyramids of our world, back-door deals have been made to gift the World Cup to Qatar despite the excruciating human cost. I’m really quite sick of the obsession with regulations, especially for those at the bottom when those at the top are able to get away with whatever they want to. 

It’s reasonable to suggest that, before a project starts, a premature gift could be a form of bribery. However, some organisations take it to the extreme. I’ve been told, on shoots in supermarkets, that I can’t bulk-buy bottles of water for crew and clients on set, because providing water to the clients is a gift and can be seen as bribery – they had to buy their own water, even though it was both cheaper and quicker for me to go get it while they got on with something more important. In more extreme circumstances, we’re not even permitted to meet some clients in person. I’m the first person to stand up for remote working as a choice but it’s so inherently against our humanity to suggest we’re banned from meeting face-to-face. I’m sure you’ve all experienced similar examples in your work environments. 

It’s time to restore common sense. The problem is, the phrase assumes everybody has common sense; but if your entire working life has been defined by regulations, you might not have had the opportunity to learn what others would call ‘common sense’. So, we need to proactively train people in common sense. And, of course, it’s a balance; some things do require regulation and are helped by having such regulation in place – but other situations require us to use our brains to deal with different situations differently. Let’s create training that equips people with the thought processes and skills they need to make good decisions, not necessarily just giving them rigid, predefined answers.

Jason Lowe, Head of Learning