Beware of Thanksgiving. It is the holiday of disaster. It is the only national holiday when everyone in the whole country gets in a car or plane at the same time. It is the only national holiday where family members meet from far away places and do not placate each other with presents. And it is the only holiday that makes people a wreck at the workplace.

All other work holidays are a treat because order starts to disintegrate a little before the holiday, providing a sort of bonus holiday. For example, when July 4th is on a Wednesday, forget Monday and Tuesday. Those are beach days. And you can't expect United States workers to show up the week before Labor Day when all of Europe got the whole month off.

But Thanksgiving, that's something else. Unless you are in customer service, your job takes a hiatus between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This is not an official hiatus — everyone shows up for work as if they care. In fact, some people do care, but not enough people care about work during the time to accomplish anything. This makes for a completely frantic three days before Thanksgiving. The real cause of Thanksgiving disaster is a short fuse from a long week.

You can solve a lot of problems by not bringing work stress to the turkey table. This is not something you can will. You must take action. Do yoga, get a massage, read a book. Thanksgiving is vacation time; use Wednesday night to create a break between work time and vacation time. Thanksgiving is short, so if you are a person who takes four days to unwind you will miss the whole thing. Which is lame, because when you have to answer, “Why do I work?” surely part of the answer is so that you can enjoy your family and friends. So here you are. This is it. If you can't calm down from the stress of your job in order to enjoy this workweek break, then what is the point of working?

As an overworked worker contributing the Thanksgiving improvement plan, the only thing you have to do well at Thanksgiving is contribute to good dinner table conversation. Fortunately, you have practiced being a good listener at work. You can't talk over your boss without getting fired, so somewhere, somehow, you have trained yourself to not interrupt people. Use that skill at the dinner table. Surprise your little brother by letting him finish a sentence. He might be so touched that he'll say something nice about you. Besides, if you don't practice good listening in all aspects of your life then you're likely to be lazy about it at work, too.

And one more thing about conversation – Don't ask the unemployed people at the table how their job-hunt is. Because here's the answer: it sucks. If you have to talk jobs, don't make suggestions on how to get one. Really, the unemployed person has tried everything. And even if he hasn't tried everything, he doesn't want to have to talk about it at Thanksgiving, in front of aunts and uncles who lived through the depression and are like, “Why can't you just be a tailor?”

So do your best, but don't despair when things go poorly. Everyone needs a good “My Thanksgiving was so bad that” story to tell at work on Monday. After all, that’s the day work stops and the month-long conversation-at-the-cooler begins.

My friend Liz just got an offer to be director of a groundbreaking, high profile, psychology program. It's a lucrative, five-year contract. Liz is 35 and single and has tons of time to devote to her career. But she's not sure if she wants to take this offer because what she really wants is children.

Like many women in this age group, Liz spent her 20's and early 30's building her career. She has lots of experience meeting men she can manage and very little experience meeting a man she can date. (Conversation we had when the last guy stopped talking to her at dinner: Me, “Dump him.” Liz, “But you said talk isn't constant when you've been together a while.” Me, “Three weeks is not a while.”)

Her current job would be great if she had a guy lined up for kids because she could work part time, which would allow her to stay on her career path and spend a lot of time at home. But alas, there is no guy lined up. Her current job is good for online dating, too, because she can work from almost anywhere so she can conduct a broad search across county lines, (and because she can peruse from her office unnoticed.)

But Liz is antsy to have a child and even with the Internet, dating is not a fast process. So she is thinking of taking things into her own hands. She has contemplated telling a boyfriend that she is using birth control when she is not, and getting pregnant that way. But she can't get past the conversation she'd have with her teenage kid:

“Mom, why didn't my dad stick around?”

“Because I tricked him into having a kid.”

Liz has two, non-boyfriend options: buying sperm from a bank or buying a baby from Asia. Both options cost about $30,000, which is a good argument for taking the new, high paying job. The ongoing cost of childcare – which, for a single mom in her neighborhood, would be about $400 a week — is another good reason to have a high paying job. Her current job would not provide enough income to fund this baby venture.

But once she's the director of the program, she couldn't work part time, she couldn't move, and she probably couldn't even find the time to date. So for Liz, this job decision is loaded. It's the decision between holding onto the dream of a spouse and kids and a part-time job, or giving up the dream for more practical measures and going the child route alone.

Liz calls me every day to discuss her life, which has become somewhat like a horse race. She tells me that this month's boyfriend might be in love. “He took me to his parent's house for dinner.” She thinks it'll be a really good sign if he takes allergy pills so he can sleep over in her cat-infested bed. “Then marriage is a real possibility.” Last week, she got herself another month to make the decision about the directorship. “By then, maybe I'll know.” But she sighs a deep sigh, and we both know that when it comes to giving up a career for a family (or vice versa) really you never know.

Usually, politics is off-limits when chatting at work. But Election Day is different. Tuesday it's okay to say, “Did you vote?” And it's a good question to ask. It's not a lightening rod like, “Do you support late-term abortion?” but you can learn a lot about your co-workers by whether or not they vote, even if you don't know how they vote.

One of my earliest memories is of my mom taking me into the voting booth with her. (I have never actually seen parents do this in other places — maybe it's a special treat for us rural Illinois kids.) She made voting seem like a very important treat, and I remember being shocked as a teenager to discover that there were nonvoters in my neighborhood.

Now I understand that there are three steps to the process of voting: Convince yourself that your vote matters, figure out who to vote for, and make time to vote. The first two steps, you'll have to do on your own, but I can help with the third. For those of you thinking that you can't take time out of your workday to vote, I've got news for you: You will look better at work if you vote, so you may as well take the time off.

The best people to work with are the people who vote, even if they vote for politicians you hate. People who vote think what they do matters, and they feel the power to effect change: two key attributes of someone who will take charge in business. Also, people who vote are thoughtful. They have 1. taken the time to decide that voting is an important aspect of democracy and they want to participate and 2. done their homework to figure out which levers to pull. Voters are people who take responsibility for themselves and the greater good.

It is not a coincidence that voters make better co-workers, because companies depend on many of the ideas that democracies depend on. For example, both believe strongly in the concept that each person matters, but both will continue even if each individual does not participate whole-heartedly. Both thrive on the idea that individuals can effect change and that people are responsible for their own fate.

I have voted in four states, and in each state, I received an “I voted” sticker when I left the polling place. I love wearing the sticker to work because on Election Day, voters form a club. These people know that even if they did not vote the same way, on some level, they have shared values because they made the decision to vote. There have been people at the office whom I despised, but when I saw them wearing that sticker, I thought, “Okay. Maybe he's not that bad.”

So for those of you who are having trouble making time in your busy work schedule to vote, remember that voting actually makes you more respected in the workplace. People make time for what's important to them. If you have decided that voting is important, but you do not make time to vote, you look like you are out of control at work — unable to manage your time. You make the world a better place by telling people that voting is so important that you have to leave work early to get to the polls before they close. And if you're a manager, you can't force your employees to vote, but you can close the office a few hours early. And I recommend that. Because good voters make good employees.