August 6, 2010 in Features

Miss Manners: Just say no to office parties

Judith Martin United Features Syndicate
 

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a project manager in a division made up of three teams. One of the other project managers is trying to force us to have monthly birthday cakes, luncheons, etc.

The members of my team do not want to do this, as they think it is a bother to run around to get cakes, etc., and have to go through the ordeal of pretending to be friends with the whole division.

I suggested using one of the more expensive bakeries that will deliver, to ease any burden on employees. This was met with a resounding NO because of the cost. (We all make over six figures!)

How do we get out of these forced social activities that we do not want to be part of without looking like a spoilsport?

GENTLE READER: Not a spoilsport perhaps, but an entire team of spoilsports.

Or, as Miss Manners would characterize your group – adults who want to go about their work seriously without feeling obligated to pretend to be excited about the birthdays of their colleagues.

You six-figure workers do not tend to think of union-type group action. But when it comes to petty office conditions that are unfortunate but well-meant, it is well to speak with one voice. When it is subordinates objecting to a directive from above, this protects an individual from seeming, as you say, a spoilsport.

In this case, you would be speaking as an equal to the other project manager, on behalf of your team, and you need only say that your team will not be participating. If asked why, do not mention the cost. Your response should be, “They don’t want to. They’re good workers, and they consider this a waste of time.”

The third project manager, and members of all the teams, may end up thanking you.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: A dear friend of many years has a granddaughter being married, and the grandmother has asked me to give the bride money as a wedding gift. I have known the upcoming bride from the day she was born, 28 years ago. They are all from a very well moneyed and educated family.

What would be the correct thing to do? I do not feel it is appropriate to give money. I would like to give a nice wedding gift. The grandmother tells me the bride and groom do not need anything, but they have just bought a large house and need money. She keeps telling me give money. I think this is very rude.

GENTLE READER: Giving in to well-heeled beggars is indeed a perversion of the charming custom of giving wedding presents. Miss Manners suggests that you reply, “I’m sorry, I really don’t do that. Do you mean to say that she doesn’t like presents? I am so fond of her and would love to give her something to remember me by.”

Then, since you have known her all her life, make your best guess about what might please her. But you might also include evidence of where it can be returned.

If you would like a copy of Miss Manners’ newsletters, “On Cellular Phone Courtesy,” “The Etiquette of Proper Eating” or “Proper Wedding Planning,” please send a self-addressed, stamped No. 10 envelope and $2 (per newsletter) to Newsletter, PO Box 167, Wickliffe, OH 44092-0167. Please state which newsletter(s) you wish to receive.


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