As you may know, the Elf on the Shelf is a relatively new holiday phenomenon that utilizes a small stuffed “scout elf” who reports naughty and nice behavior to Santa. The intention being that children will act like model citizens under their elf’s watchful eyes. Chances are that you have even seen some of the elaborate scenes that parents stay up late creating in the hopes that their children will work harder to earn their place on the coveted Nice List. Don’t get me wrong, I myself am not above the Elf craze (my family has an elf named Kensington Gumdrop aka Kenny G); however, my interest lies more with a different type of scout elf that you have likely experienced throughout your career. This type of scout elf can be found in offices everywhere and doesn’t shy away from an opportunity to report your behavior to the big man himself (your boss). While it is easy to draw this comparison between elves on shelves and tattling coworkers, what is not simple is staying off of your manager’s naughty list when they are around.

1 . If you are dealing with one of these workplace behavior scouts, it’s time to outsmart them and ensure that you are on your boss’s nice list. The following are three simple ways that you can avoid being the subject of the office elf’s conversations11Don’t wait for someone else to relay information about you to the boss. For example, be proactive if you are running late and call in to give them a heads up. Traffic happens to everyone, but they would much rather receive a call from you instead of hearing about you sneaking in late from someone else. Get ahead of any issues by owning your mistakes, get help to improve upon your shortcomings, and ask for feedback. You will find that open communication will take some of the office elf’s power away.

2 . It’s simple really, don’t give them a reason to tattle. If they are typical tattlers, they are waiting in the wings for an opportunity to catch you in a compromising situation. Truth be told, just like those little tykes behave better when they believe an elf is watching from a shelf, employees are more likely to stay on task if they believe their actions are being watched and evaluated. As a result, always behave as though someone is watching. Stay on task, be on time, keep office conversations appropriate, pull your weight, and the office elf will have nothing negative to report about you.

3 . Talk to your boss. No, I am definitely not saying that you should become an office elf yourself. Rather, I am suggesting that the conversations that you have with your boss should not be limited to scheduled performance reviews or when you are in trouble (thanks to the office elf). Keep in touch with your boss throughout the year. Let them know who you are, what your goals are and build a positive rapport with them. That way, if the office elf attempts to throw you under the bus, your boss is more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt. Just make sure that your conversations are focused around yourself so that you don’t become Office Elf 2.0.


My advice? Work like there is an elf on the shelf in your office, but know how to deal with them just in case.