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Miss Manners: Business trumps personal calls

Fri., April 3, 2009, midnight

Dear Miss Manners: I employ five people in a small manufacturing setting. I encourage my employees to be friendly and have no problem with them talking during work or listening to the radio with their ear buds.

During the course of the day, I have occasional questions regarding the work flow or job completion. I will walk into the manufacturing area, and if I determine that the conversation is of a personal nature, I will politely stop the conversation and ask the business question at hand.

One of my employees has complained that I am being rude and ill mannered when I stop their conversation. She feels that I should allow them to complete their personal chatter and when they are finished, I can speak to them.

My feeling is that this is my time, and I pay the salary. I think I am being very generous with allowing them to chatter about personal things during the day. But, when I have business to conduct, all should come to a stop and the business should be taken care of.

Am I being ill mannered to expect that the work day is to come first?

Gentle reader: Your employees have gone from friendly to cheeky, is what Miss Manners thinks. That is the danger of slipping from a professional demeanor into one where people feel there is no hierarchy, and that their leisure should be respected.

Professional manners require attending to business when there is work to be done and not keeping the boss waiting. The sooner you explain that to your employees, the better. And never mind whether they grouse about it – you are supposed to be their boss, not their buddy.

Dear Miss Manners: Am I mistaken? Aren’t a cocktail party and a dinner party two different things?

I have been blessed recently with invitations to two different friends’ homes for formal dinners. They usually ask us to come at a certain time. When my husband and I arrive (on time), our hosts display a tray of cheese, chips, dip, crudities, etc., along with an offer of wine (or sometimes mixed drinks). After at least an hour and a half of these munchies, dinner is announced, and a full formal sit-down dinner with several courses then progresses. By then, I am not hungry, it is usually at least well after 8:30 at night, and while I am enjoying their company, I really don’t want to eat everything that is presented before me in all of their courses. I then go home to retire and am very uncomfortable from all of the rich, plentiful food, and sleep is difficult.

Why would a hostess fill us up with cheese, chips and dips, when there is a fabulous dinner cooking in the kitchen? When I issue an invitation for a dinner at a certain time (usually 6:30 or 7 p.m.), that is what time dinner is served. Are my dinner invitations too abrupt?

Gentle reader: They are certainly compelling if you can count on all your guests showing up at the time they were invited, in which case Miss Manners congratulates you. Many hosts find that they need a long cocktail hour just to get everyone there.

But since you know there is a meal coming, why don’t you stay away from the cheese?

Readers may write to Miss Manners at MissManners@

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