ManagementSpeak: Don’t blame me. The majority wanted it this way.
Translation: I’d rather do what’s popular than what’s right.
Don’t blame this week’s anonymous contributor — the majority wants accurate translations.

Next year, wish everyone you know a Nifty Newton’s Birthday and a Pleasant Perihelion.

Lauren Eve Pomerantz, a regular correspondent, suggested these as tongue-in-cheek alternatives to the usual and strangely controversial choices for well-wishing during the interval between Thanksgiving and early January. Sir Isaac was born 12/25/1642, and “Remember,” she points out, “if it hadn’t been for Newton discovering gravity, we would all have to be tied down to the Earth, like people in olden days.”

The Perihelion — January 3rd, the day the Earth most closely approaches the sun — isn’t as notable an event, but at least it has astronomical significance, in contrast to the New Year, which celebrates the Earth passing an entirely arbitrary point in its orbit.

But I’m sure plenty of Americans would take offense, just as almost a third do when they hear “Happy Holidays” (at least according to Newsweek). Taking offense is a growth industry.

Following this year’s “Holiday Card to the Industry,” which discussed this subject, the floodgates opened. I received even more mail about “Happy Holidays” vs “Merry Christmas” than I did in response to my columns about corporate dress codes and global warming (separate subjects — I haven’t tried to link dress codes and global warming, although it’s tempting).

For the record, most agreed with the column’s position that getting steamed at the phrase “Happy Holidays” doesn’t make much sense, and encouraging Christians to become angry about it is reprehensible. Among the minority who wrote to chastise me, quite a few focused on my having embroiled KJR in political issues (again) and for taking a liberal position in doing so. Both challenges are worth responding to.

So I will.

Second one first: If I’m a liberal for encouraging you to take no offense when someone wishes you well using secular phrasing, that means encouraging people to take offense when offered good wishes is the mark of a loyal conservative. I’m pretty sure, though, that neither political party claims sole ownership of bad manners.

First one second: Whether I extended KJR beyond its scope and my expertise to cover a political issue. It’s a fine opportunity to make an important distinction — between political issues and issues that have become politicized.

Here’s the difference. Imagine Senator Bill Frist made a speech on the Senate floor decrying the trend toward casual garb in the workforce, and that Senator Ted Kennedy responded in favor of neck-tie-less attire. Does anyone think this would immediately make it inappropriate for KJR to take a stance on corporate dress codes, or that being against mandatory neckties would make yours truly a liberal?

The contrast is clear: Were KJR to run a column taking a position on how to deal with the conflict in Iraq, whether the U.S. should defend Taiwan militarily in the event of invasion by mainland China, or whether the United States should reduce the federal deficit through revenue increases along with cost reductions and deficit spending, those would be political columns that exceed its scope and my special competence.

But dress codes, global warming and how to wish friends, co-workers and customers well are not political issues, although two of the three have become politicized. Were I to consider politicized subjects off limits, it would silence this column on subjects that are of great importance to IT executives and managers.

Bad idea. For that matter, some issues that are clearly political matter greatly to an IT audience: The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, offshore outsourcing and the “in-shoring” of foreign IT professionals are high-profile examples. They’re in bounds as well.

As it happens, the question of whether to offer a secular or non-secular greeting during the Holiday Season is just one ramification of a serious issue IT leaders deal with every day. Next week’s column will dig into it; here’s a preview to get you thinking:

In many companies and probably most, employees celebrate each others’ birthdays. Probably, as an IT manager, you’ve participated, and wished employees “Happy Birthday,” too.

Now imagine one of your employees is a Jehovah’s Witness, and therefore considers the celebration of birthdays to be sacrilegious since the tradition’s origin traces back to Roman polytheism and the celebration of various gods’ days (or so a Jehovah’s Witness missionary explained to me many years back). How do you handle the situation?

* * *

I’ve been writing this column in its various incarnations once a week for ten years now. When it started, as InfoWorld’s “IS Survival Guide,” I wasn’t sure I could come up with 50 strongly held opinions, let alone the 500 that a decade required. I’d ask you to be more impressed, except that Isaac Asimov published that many books in his lifetime.

Still, ten perihelia have passed since I started these musings, and that’s a milestone of sorts. Welcome to the start of the next ten.