Workplace Conflict & The Holidays

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Christmastime is a very busy time for Human Resources and a very common time for office conflict. I don’t need to look at the calendar to know it’s December — I can just tell by the number of voicemail messages on my phone that people are irritated and pissed off with the world.

It’s easy to understand why people hate one another during THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR. Your colleagues are in the midst of their year-end performance review cycle; some of your colleagues are working under insanely unrealistic goals; many coworkers look at their upcoming 2008 budgets and laugh. Your peers and supervisors are stressed because of lackluster company earnings and rising health insurance rates. Some of us know that we won’t be getting raises and bonuses in the new year. Some of us haven’t received bonuses in a few years.

What’s worse is that our family lives are often chaotic in December. Your kids want a Wii and a pony. Your siblings are cranky and have issues that emerge around the holidays. Your parents are drunk or passive-aggressive. Maybe both. Grandpa has dementia, but you’re beginning to suspect that he is really just a pain-in-the-ass.

My advice?

  • When your blood boils and you are ready to go ape-shit on the 38th colleague who asks you a dumb question, go easy on ’em.
  • When you want to smack your boss for telling you that your goals are not written in the SMART format when they clearly are SMART — but they might be lazy goals & not much of a stretch because you know that goals are useless, anyway — go easy on ’em.
  • When someone at work starts to rant about the War on Christmas and the candidacy of Ron Paul, go easy on ’em.

People are weird at work when they can’t express themselves in a normal & healthy way in their home environments. The holidays are dysfunctional and no one enjoys too much face-time with family members and distant relatives.

If a colleague criticizes you for the way you always schedule meetings right after lunch, please do your best to understand that your colleague has a douchebag relative who makes December unbearable. I’m not asking you to be a martyr, but you can lead by example and do your best not to explode at work. Go eat a cookie. Go have a piece of pie. Sugar-laden food is everywhere in the office, this time of year, for a reason. Sugar makes us feel good.

Besides, you have an entire year — all of 2008 — to be angry with your coworkers. Why waste your energy now when you should be focused on hating your family? Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

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