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How to Not Kill Your Co-Workers at the Holidays

The holidays are all about giving. You know? I mean, there’s something that just feels good – REALLY GOOD — when you give to others, be it a friend, a loved one or someone in nee—

Photo: Christopher Robbins | Photodisc | Getty Images

DANGIT, JIMMY, DID YOU TAKE MY STAPLER AGAIN? YOU KNOW HOW MUCH I HATE IT WHEN YOU TAKE MY STUFF AND DON’T BRING IT BACK! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!!!!

Yeah, despite our best efforts to be merry and bright during the holiday season, the truth is that our fuses are shortest this time of year and tempers at the office can flare up quicker than chestnuts roasting on an open fire.

Between the end-of-year reports and quotas you have to make at the office to the shopping and extra holiday prep you have to do in your personal time, the pressure can be so great, you snap at the smallest thing.

“The holidays can be brutal!” said Bill Dueease, president of the Coach Connection, a network of career coaches. “Do you secretly daydream about plucking every min-marshmallow out of your officemates' hot chocolate while they are busy brown-nosing the boss?!” he quipped.

Here are some tips to keep from killing your co-workers this holiday season, while battling the insane traffic, pushing at the stores and general crankiness at the office.

Divide and conquer. First, separate your work from your personal life, suggests Marie McIntyre, a career coach and author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.”“Try to be where you are. When you’re at the office, you need to be at the office and leave your personal to-do list — wrapping, decorating, etc. — at home,” she says. Set realistic expectations for yourself AND, very important — separate out the must-do items from what she calls the “nice-do” items. “What are the things you really NEED to do for the holiday?” she says. Do those, and consider the rest optional — if you have time. “Let them go if they’re driving you insane!”

Remember that everyone is as #$%^ stressed-out as you. Remember, you have no idea what’s going on with other people — what’s “in their emotional knapsack,” as McIntyre puts it. So, stop and think before you snap.

And, others being stressed out too can work to your advantage, said Matthew Latkiewicz, who writes about drinking for NYMag.com’s Grub Street and blogs at YouWillNotBelieve.us. “Take advantage of their distraction and just work less hard!” he said. “Don’t be a jerk about it, but come in a little late and leave a little early; take long breaks … catch up on your magazines … basically bring a little of the weekend in your workday.”

And, if anyone calls you on it, he says, just say, “Oh, sorry, I’ve been such a space cadet since Thanksgiving!”

Get your head in the game. Maybe play some soothing music in those final few minutes before you arrive in the parking lot or just have a few minutes of quiet time, McIntyre suggests. Do whatever you have to do to get your head in that calm place before you walk in the door. She suggests imagining a closet. Everything you're stressed about, put it in that closet and shut the door before you walk in to work. Do it again on the way home — shove everything in your mental “office closet” before you get home, so you don’t snap at the kids

Find a stress buddy at work. “You should have one of these, regardless, Latkiewicz said. “But now, it’s even more important. Stress buddies are those to whom you can complain about your co-worker, and with whom you can go out for a drink after work,” he advises. Then, set a goal of grabbing a drink a couple times a week at 5pm. Put it in your outlook calendar and everything. Then, make sure you hit those end of year goals. All right — HIGH FIVE!

“If you don’t already, learn to like a gin martini,” Latkiewicz advised. “Nothing, nothing melts away workday stress like a gin martini up with a twist.”

Do something nice for someone in need, suggests Michael Crom, chief learning officer at the Dale Carnegie Institute. It’s amazing how volunteering or donating to those less fortunate can screw your head on straight and put it all in perspective.

Or, he suggests, just the simple act of doing something nice — thanking a co-worker, sending a hand-written note of appreciation — it can go a long way to brightening that person’s day — and yours.

Crom recalls one executive who was brought in to help turn around a business publication. He bought an old-fashioned popcorn maker and movie-theater bags. Every afternoon, he made a big batch of popcorn and dropped a little bag on everyone’s desk to say “Thank you.” He also made a point of asking his employees if there was anything he could do to help make their jobs easier. It went a long way with his employees and he was successful turning the business around.

Tune out. If you have a co-worker that’s just pumping out the negativity like elves in Santa’s workshop, just tune out. “Santa will not put coal in your stocking for doing this!” Dueease said. “It’s like putting a little ‘do not disturb’ sign on your forehead.”

Build up your immune system to the contagion of negativity. Crom recalls an old boss who preached SNIOP — being susceptible to the negative influence of other people. “The moment someone around you is negative or complaining, say ‘SNIOP!’ and take two steps backwards,” Crom said. “You have to treat them like a vampire!”

Is that like saying “Beetlejuice” three times fast?!

Deck the halls. “Turn on the holiday charm in your office and leave stress at the door,” Dueease suggests. “Lightly play some holiday music, put up a tiny tree complete with a toy train, asset out a couple holiday photos … who could feel bad walking into ‘Santa’s Workshop’ every day?!”

Start a snowball fight in your office, suggests comedian Harrison Greenbaum. Bring in a cooler full of snow, crouch down behind your padded cube wall and ready … aim … fire! “If you get in trouble, just turn up the thermostat and destroy the evidence,” Greenbaum says.

Genius.

Buy an iPhone 4S and take all your aggressions out on SIRI, Greenbaum advises. “She’ll never get mad, plus, she might be able to pull up a map of the nearest anger-management center or knife store!”

Photo: Don Bayley | Getty Images

Watch a whole season of “Dexter,” Greenbaum offers. “If seeing all those people getting murdered doesn’t help relieve your homicidal urges, at least you’ll soak in enough information about how to avoid getting caught when you act on them.”

Get a stress ball. OK, if homicide isn’t your thing, maybe just get a stress ball. Our friends over at ThinkGeek.com suggest the Infectious Disease Stress Balls– they come in four flavors — bubonic plague, cooties, smallpox and zombie virus. I mean, taking out your frustration AND squashing cooties once and for all? I’ll take ten!

Smash something pretty. Have you ever considered mosaic? I know, it sounds artsy fartsy but really, what it boils down to is you get to take a hammer and smash something, like a pretty plate, then put it back together again. Nice! Everyone’s getting mosaic projects for Christmas this year. Happy holidays, indeed!

Blame your family. If all else fails, Latkiewicz says, blame your family — everyone will understand. He adds, “This works in reverse — if you find yourself freaking out on your family, blame the people at work!”

OK, deep breathe iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiin …..

And, exhale.

Now, repeat after me: I will not kill one of my co-workers over a jam in the copier.

I will embody the holiday spirit — wait, I AM the holiday spirit.

Yeah, now you're getting the hang of it.

OK, now where’s my drinking budd — I mean, stress buddy? Surely, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere! (Go to Worldtimezone.netto see where!)

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Contact Pony Blog

  • Cindy Perman is a writer at CNBC.com, covering jobs, real estate, retirement and personal finance.

  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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