Bob Goldman

There's nothing like the holiday season to make someone jolly, happy and fired.

Yes, fired. In this economy, you have to watch your step all year 'round, but when it's holiday time, you must be doubly diligent. That's why I was so happy to find Ruth Mantell's recent column in the Wall Street Journal titled, "Five Holiday Don'ts at the Office."

Of course, even a shrewd observer of business behavior like Ms. Mantell doesn't always get it right, and some of her five "don'ts" I find to be definite "do's." So put down that eggnog and let's decide what you should do, or don't.

Office Don't No. 1 is complaining. As Mantell writes, "Sure, chewing limp baby carrots and making small talk at the office holiday party may feel lame, but complaining about it isn't cool either."

I have to agree. Limp or not, baby carrots have never made you work over the weekend or taken credit for your successful projects. Complaining to them now on the state of their muscle tone is just wrong. Now, if it we were talking about radishes, or, worse, celery, I'd say complain all you want. They deserve it.

(OK, so it's possible Mantell is writing about complaining to a human being about the flabby carrots, but you still must be cautious. The boss may be a vegetarian and could consider your trash talking her vegetable friends to be insubordination. You may come in the next morning and find a bushel of kohlrabi sitting at your desk.)

Giving inappropriate gifts is Office Don't No. 2. Merry rigmaroles, such as Secret Santa, may inspire you to give a gag gift, or even a gift that makes you gag, but be careful. As manners maven Charles Purdy puts it, "don't do these games unless everyone has a sense of humor about it."

Of course, you may think that anyone who survives at your company for more than a week must have a sense or humor, but it may make sense to save the fake vomit or the Whoopee Cushion for a more appropriate occasion, such as the annual tar and feathering of the HR department.

Another potentially risky gift situation involves your boss. "If you are friends with your boss," writes Mantell, "wait to exchange gifts outside of the office."

"It can be seen as trying to curry favor," adds Mr. Purdy, "and when you get a promotion, it's perceived that it's because you bought (your boss) a gift."

Bob Goldman

Bob Goldman is a business humor writer.

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