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Miss Manners: No-gifts policy at work is good for everyone

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I are expecting our first child, a fact he has shared with his employees at the grocery he manages.

He received a present from an employee moments before he had to let him go (my husband had known for two weeks that he had to terminate his employment but was waiting for him to come back from vacation). My husband accepted the present but feels horrible about it.

Was it OK that he accepted the present? Should we send him a thank-you card as we have sent to everyone else we have received presents from? How should that thank-you card be worded?

GENTLE READER: Your husband feels horrible because he fired someone who was at that moment acting as a friend. His error, however, occurred earlier: It was in allowing, if not encouraging, the fiction that employment relationships and personal friendships are the same.

It is, Miss Manners believes, time for a new office policy barring supervisors from accepting gifts from employees. This will protect employees from feeling pressured to give such gifts, and it will give supervisors – including your husband – a graceful way to avoid both the implied obligation and the impossibility of rejecting an act of kindness.

In the meantime, the present on your kitchen counter demands a letter of thanks. As personal and professional relationships are properly kept separate, no reference should be made to the termination.


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