Use workplace skills to improve Thanksgiving dinner


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.

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