Don’t let an unhappy co-worker ruin your holiday office party

There's always that one person who brings down the holiday office party. Dr. Mark Goulston wants to give that Grinch a second chance for redemption.
This is a photo of Mark Goulston, M.D.
Mark Goulston, M.D.

Do you have any co-workers that ruin everyone’s time and you can’t un-invite them to the holiday party? Do you feel guilty at wishing they’ll either have other plans or be too sick to come? Do you wish there was a way to paper train them so they don’t mess on everyone else’s good time?

Here is how using a little applied emotional intelligence can save the day. One thing most of these high-maintenance people have in common is that they feel as if the world is not treating them well enough. In essence, they don’t feel important or special enough in the world. It’s usually because their disagreeable personality has gotten in the way of success which they are bitter about.

This is where thinking ahead and using the “i” — as in important — word can do wonders.

Have your party organizer email these problem people five to seven days ahead of time with: “I’m emailing to ask you a favor because you’re a very important part of our holiday gathering (i.e. “because we haven’t figured out how to keep you from coming or shut you up”). Since you are such a consistent and important guest I was hoping you might be able to greet people when they come in and help pull them out of their shell by asking them how they and their family are doing and about anything new that’s been going on with them.”

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Having the office Grinch do something so forward-thinking and so gracious is not only quite flattering, it is disarming. The problem person is going to have trouble responding with his/her real modus operandi, i.e. “No thanks. I was planning on coming and ruining everyone’s time like I do every year.”

Then when the holiday party occurs this same Grinch should greet that person at the door, touch them on the arm and say: “I hope I can count on you to help make people feel comfortable after they arrive.” Then add before they can respond, “Oh, excuse me. I have to go take care of some things.”

This may not stop a dyed in the wool jerk from spoiling the party, but it may serve as a deterrent.

In the meantime, Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year… and next year, send the Grinch on a little holiday vacation instead of giving them an invite.

Join the Conversation: How have you dealt with a difficult person during the holidays? Tell us your story on our Facebook page.

Dr. Mark Goulston is an award-winning business psychiatrist, a consultant for Fortune 500 companies and the best-selling author of seven books. His latest book, Talking to Crazy: How to Deal with Irrational and Irresponsible People in your Life can be found on Amazon. Catch up on Dr. Goulston’s previous articles here.

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