10 Commandments for Surviving and Thriving the Holiday Season


Naughty or Nice?

Your Jewish Fairy Godmother’s
10 Commandments for Surviving and Thriving the Holiday Season


It’s the time of year when everybody’s making lists and checking them twice. Lists of who gets a cash bonus, who gets a turkey, and who gets a lump of coal. It’s the season of shopping, parties, and visiting relatives and, oh yes, all that darned work piling up on your desk that you’re sure can wait ’til January. Bleep! Bleep! Bleep! If you want to be among the honored and appreciated this holiday season, be sure to follow your JFG’s commandments for thriving your way to New Year’s Eve:


Commandment Number 1: Dress up, within reason.

Think about how people see you every day. Now think about how you looked for your job interview. How do you want to be remembered for your attire during the holiday season? Not as the woman with a daily parade of elves or reindeer across her chest, or the one who appeared at the office party wearing only a hankie’s worth of fabric. Use the occasion to your professional benefit. Think style. Show how well you clean up. Expand the range of images that people have of you. The next time they’re deciding who is new management material, that’s how they’ll see you. Dress classy and aim to upgrade your image a couple of pay grades.


Commandment Number 2: Party smart.

Perception also counts at the buffet table. Avoid being the guy/gal with a drink in each hand, or the one planted next to the shrimp platter or the dessert table. Eating a few hours before the party will keep your appetite in check. Your personal liquor limit should be well this side of legal. There may be designated drivers, but don’t become the person for whom they’re invoked. Getting tagged as a lush can cost you promotion opportunities; you’ll be seen as an unpredictable risk, not a reliable company rep. Instead of chowing down too hard, look for chances to schmooze with people you’d not normally have access to. Ask intelligent questions and look interested in the answers. Tell them you’re interested in working on their team the next time there’s a chance. Try to get tagged as the one people want to talk to, not the lonely wallflower.


Commandment Number 3: Neither grope nor be groped.

No planting yourself under the mistletoe or over-enthusiastically kissing the boss’s spouse. Office dating between eligible singles, let alone adulterous affairs (perceived or real), has risks, no matter how often you swear to “keep it quiet.” Equally bad is getting a reputation as the one to tackle or the one to avoid in a dark hallway. Being a groper or a gropee can do damage to your upward mobility. In the short run it may improve your social life, but not with people who’re likely to be trusted to help you in the long run. Instead, stay in the light. Compliment folks on how nice they look; ask after their families; show respect for their personal lives. Glad-handing means shaking hands, not making out.


Commandment Number 4. Gift wisely.

Gifting can be a Thank-You to people you supervise or a brown-nose Hello to someone whose favor you want to curry. You don’t want to be perceived as either too cheap or too much of a butt-kisser. But it’s a great chance to show that you care. Avoid gag gifts, anything evangelical, or inappropriately personal. Strive for good taste that everyone can enjoy, or can discretely re-gift to someone outside the office. Chocolate is easy but lost among the calories of the season. Gift certificates are impersonal, and place a dollar value on the relationship that’s too easy to compare or criticize. Everyone’s swimming in calendars. Best is to find something unique or handcrafted and distribute it to everyone in a variety of colors or flavors. Shop with style and people will remember your good taste.


Commandment Number 5. Remember why you’re there.

It’s easy to let shopping, travel, family, and camaraderie take center stage. It’s tempting to swap stories about vacations, presents, and visiting relatives. That’s true whether you stand around the water cooler or use email. But whatever you say and do can be held against you, especially by the folks who’re still under the gun for deliverables. Beware being seen as a holiday slacker, ready to stop work at the sound of a loud laugh or a cluster of happy breakers. Avoid having your hilarious description of someone’s ugly party dress or bad dancing become what you’re remembered for. Be nice to the boss’s family; say thank you promptly for your bonus (whether it’s cash or coal); and avoid letting your productivity drop below par. Don’t let the seasonal festivities hurt your career.


Commandment Number 6. Be careful with your confidences.

It’s the time of year when everyone seems friendlier. With a drink or gift in hand and a holiday smile on their faces, people seem more accessible and easier to talk to. You may seem to be in a truce with your usual nemesis, and feel more open, trusting, and conversational. But come January, those same people will remember with glee the embarrassing story told in confidence, and you’re likely to hear it in places you cannot control. Stay on good company behavior. Keep your ears open and your mouth shut in a big, quiet grin. Collect more information than you give away. Be charming and cheerful, but remember to color within all the appropriate corporate lines.


Commandment Number 7: Meet your deadlines.

The vendors have dropped off a 12-gallon drum of caramel corn. The gal in accounting is telling the story of her ski trip. Your best friend is trolling the internet shopping for bargains and last-minute gifts. Tempting as it may be to blow off work in favor of all those lovely distractions, don’t do it. Repeat this daily: Doing a good job allows me to afford all those things January through November. If you get sloppy about details, or forget to complete a project that someone is waiting for, you’ll feel the heat and it won’t be the eggnog. Be efficient, stay on task, and be (or act like you are) in a good mood doing it. Get your work done and even ask others how you can help. Then you can play with a clear conscience and a good reputation..


Commandment Number 8: Plan ahead.

Who would you rather be seen as: the one who’s willing to do for others or the one looking out only for yourself? If you need extra travel days, ask early. Before you book any non-refundable plans, check dates with your co-workers and your supervisor. Explain you need to cross several time zones to visit your ailing Aunt Sally or see the new niece or grandson. Once you’ve gotten written approval, make reservations and mark your time away on the company calendar. If you’re new on the crew, don’t argue if your request is trumped by folks with more seniority. If you’re staying in town, be accommodating to those who need more travel time. Then later, when you really need it, use the “Remember when I” leverage. Chits are always useful. Here’s an easy chance to collect them.


Commandment Number 9. Respect diversity.

No matter how you slice it, America is a Christian country. There may be a thousand other religions, major and minor, but the seasonal calendar is organized around two things: shopping and Christianity. That’s no reason to turn your desk into a religious shrine or an altar to capitalism. Among your co-workers are Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Wiccans, and atheists, among others. You’re unlikely to be able to tell them apart (religious jewelry notwithstanding) and shouldn’t offend any of them. You don’t need to get whiplash trying to be politically correct to everyone. Just keep your cards and language aimed at Seasons Greetings and Happy New Year instead of religious slogans. You’ll be better appreciated by every clan and be seen as someone that anyone can talk to..


Commandment Number 10: Make achievable resolutions.

Resolutions tend to be personal: about our bodies, our love lives, as well as our wallets and careers. When you get out your paper and pen, ask yourself to think about not only what you want, but what you’re willing to do about it. Don’t set up reasons to lay guilt on yourself a month or two from now. Make only resolutions that you’re willing to commit at least three hours a week to manifest. If that means only one resolution, but one that you actually follow through on, focus on that issue. If you truly aim your personal power at a specific goal, by this time next year you’ll be happier, more successful, thinner, rich, or in love.


Happy New Year from Your Jewish Fairy Godmother, with best wishes for a year in which all your goals come true!