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Thanksgiving (or, more appropriately, Thanksgivukkah) is the real kickoff of the holiday season, and it’s a time full of obligations.

You’ve got obligations with family and at work; you’ve got Uncle Joe’s party you don’t want to go to, and your boss has this dinner or lunch thing that everybody has to go to. The big question is, should you honor these obligations?

We want to help you figure out where that thin line is—when you should buck up and say “no more,” or when you need to take one for the team and just tell yourself “I got to do this, there’s no way around it.”

Black Friday has turned into Black Thursday, which is making us think about this issue. Suddenly, beyond just the partying obligations and the gift-giving, there’s a new obligation that’s creeping up—Black Thursday.

Black Thursday is this new trend where stores like Wal-Mart, Sears, Macy’s, JC Penny all have decided to open up on Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving and July 4th are really the only big, secular holidays we have where we don’t have to worry about religion of politics. Now that these stores are opening up on Thanksgiving, the employees that work there can’t really say “no.”

Here’s one side of the issue: times like these are the best opportunities for employees to buck up and get into a leadership role. It’s an opportunity for you to get out there and rally your teammates and co-workers to do a great job, even on a holiday, because it’s going to look amazing to your supervisor and boss. They’re going to remember that you chose to be onboard.

But where’s the line? When should you come in for no extra hours and no extra pay, and when should you finally say “no”? We’re not just talking about Black Thursday. We’re talking about any time of the year where your boss is making you work when you’re not comfortable working.

Here are several points you should consider before deciding that crucial decision whether to come in or stay home:

  • You have to figure out how much leverage you have and how replaceable you are. Ask yourself, “Am I willing to put my job on the line and basically tell management that it will be harder to replace me than to give me what I want?” Don’t undersell yourself; you may have a lot more leverage than you think.
  • Ask yourself: “Am I getting anything from this job? Why am I here?”  When you have a hard time finding a solid answer, it goes beyond simply drawing a line in the sand, it might be a signpost: when you put your all into a job and there is nothing left to be returned, it’s time for you to start looking for a better one.
  • If you still have something to learn, if you need this job to pay the rent, if you don’t have any leverage, the bottom line is that you have to do what management wants. Remember: don’t operate out of fear, just figure out your leverage with the company.

To put it in more coarse terms: you know where the line lies by the grip management has around your throat. If you’re somebody who feels like you’ve learned everything you can at the job and there’s no more promotions for you to get, and they’re still giving you a hard time, it’s time to find another job.

But if you need the job, you go in. Don’t whine and complain—make it an opportunity to thrive and succeed and be a leader. If you can’t pay the rent, and Wal-Mart or whoever is giving you the opportunity to work, clock in and stop complaining.

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