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The torture of email backlog

You're back from your holidays, and your email backlog is daunting and it's too cold to show off your tan, and all you can see is months of work stretching out ahead of you as the nights get longer. Here's your essential guide to going back to work after a break in the sun -- and with autumn bearing down on you.

The email backlog

You return to two weeks of missed emails and most of the questions and queries have already been dealt with by somebody else, or have reached their deal-by-date.

There's never anything of personal interest, as anyone genuinely interested in you personally will have known you were on holiday.

You'll feel obliged to go through them all painstakingly -- but remember, if anything does remain urgent, you will undoubtedly receive another email on the matter.

> The Endless holiday conversation

Fantastic opportunity for showing off if you've had adventures in some far-flung region like the girls in Sex and the City 2.

Otherwise, you'll end up watching people's eyes glaze over as you recount your trip to somewhere everyone already has the T-shirt from.

Face it, people only want to know what goodies you have brought back for them -- whether it is an office offering of chocolate from Paris, or Chianti from Italy.

If by the 15th person you can no longer face talking about your holidays anymore, mutter something about having caught an infectious disease at some dodgy holiday resort, and watch people retreat.

> Odd looks, or excess good cheer at your return

You bounce back into the office only to be met with some odd or distant looks, or with people turning and walking in the opposite direction at the sight of you.

Chances are that something went wrong while you were away and you're being blamed for it. You are probably about to be fired.

The person giving you the oddest looks is the person who is probably to blame, and guilt is making him, or her, cross-eyed.

On the other hand, if people are being inordinately friendly, it's usually a sign that people have been talking about you while you were away, and that they are happy to have a source of so much fun back. Beware.

> The over-loaded to-do list

Jealousy is a terrible thing, and colleagues who have been stuck in the office while you've been smothering yourself in sun tan lotion in foreign climes will seek revenge by trying to offload the most hideous jobs on you.

They'll try to make you deal with people known to cause colleagues to chew on their desks in frustration.

They'll attempt to dump the assignments guaranteed to turn any sunny morning sour.

Don't go on the defensive -- instead turn on the flattery. It's hard for people to be mean to you just after you've complimented them on their new haircut.

> Who to have lunch with

It's not that the office political landscape will have changed that much in your absence, but more that you will have returned from your holidays with new strategies for deflecting enemies and moving upwards.

Well, saving your job at the very least.

People notice who you lunch with, so choose your lunch colleague carefully. If you're seen leaving the office with your boss, either it looks like you're about to be fired, or you're supplying them with information about your colleagues.

If you're lunching with the person known to do the least amount of work they can get away with, then it won't reflect well on your work ethic.

The ideal lunch date is a hard-working but fun-loving colleague.

> Dealing with new colleagues

First of all, make sure they are indeed new colleagues and it's not just a case of you not having paid attention for a few months before going on holidays.

So when you're certain that they're not colleagues you just haven't noticed before, be sure to be friendly and introduce yourself, as they may have some new jokes, or a tendency to share their chocolate.

However, don't spend too much time chatting away or explaining how the office works, or the boss will think that you're not doing your job. Or that you appear to have too much time on your hands, and give you more work.

Also, beware of anyone who has been promoted in your absence.

It's best to avoid new bosses when they are going through their power-trip stage, and to re-enter their orbit when they are grateful for a friendly face after alienating everyone else.

> Dressing for September

You're sun-kissed, glowing and tanned in all the right places, and want nothing more than to show off your hard-earned sun tan to all your colleagues.

Wearing a halter-neck top, shorts and flip-flops to work in September may, however, attract responses other than the looks of admiration you were hoping for.

Yep, you did just hear someone ask: "Did ye see the state of her?"

You don't have to wear a black polo neck, but jeans and a white shirt might be a better way to go for showing off your tan.

> Cheer yourself up

You have no choice but to make it through the winter at work and one consolation is that your work colleagues are in the same boat as you.

Cheer yourself up by making someone else smile.

And as corny as it sounds, cracking a joke will make you feel good, and the people around you feel better too.