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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Workplace amity costing employees

Judith Martin United Feature Syndicate

When contemplating taking a new job, Miss Manners would consider it prudent to inquire the amount that the salary will be depleted by paying good fellowship dues.

This would be the cumulative amount that an employee will be cajoled or bullied into contributing to presents and parties for fellow workers. Every workplace has a volunteer social director who comes to collect money and goods to support the heavy schedule of social events held during working hours:

“Ethan in Accounting is getting married, and we’ve decided to buy him a crystal bowl. Your share is $20, but some people are giving more, and that’s all right, too.”

“We’re having a Fourth of July party on Friday, instead of our usual end-of-the-week bash. Would you prefer to bring a casserole or a pie?”

“There are three birthdays this week. We were going to throw them in together, but it doesn’t seem fair to those who have had their own parties, so we’re scheduling them for Monday, Wednesday and Friday. But you can pay in a lump sum for all three.”

“We’re taking Greg out to lunch for his retirement. Oh, of course, you know him. Everyone knows Greg. He’s been here forever. Well then, this will be a chance to meet him, because we’re taking him to the Bistro Francaise. Naturally, we’ll each pay for our own lunches, but we’re also contributing toward paying for his.”

Miss Manners is not against cordial relationships in the workplace. On the contrary, she considers a pleasant demeanor and a cooperative attitude to be requirements.

Nor is she against friendships forming among co-workers, which is not the same thing as hanging around with colleagues who will lose interest in anyone whose employment has terminated.

But compulsory socializing at work has assumed frightening proportions. It started with the notion that co-workers who got to know one another in a personal way would become 1) fond of one another, and 2) more productive. That they might waste an inordinate amount of time in becoming acquainted with people they turned out to dislike does not seem to have been considered.

In the same period, businesses were slashing their budgets, dropping such courtesies to their employees as holiday and retirement parties and flowers for funerals. It became in their interest to allow employees to take over the cost.

The workers-as-friends convention obscured this. And it seems to have obscured from many workers the fact that they are entitled to choose their own friends.

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