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Miss Manners: Are thank you notes for bonuses appropriate?

Judith Martin, United Feature Syndicate

DEAR MISS MANNERS: The small company I work for hands out Christmas bonuses every year. The last two years I have been with the company, I have received a bonus, but I was not sure as to whether or not I should send a thank you note to the owner, so I didn’t. Once again, I’m torn – do I write a thank you note or don’t I?

I was always told as a child that when you receive a gift, the proper thing to do would be to send the giver a thank you note. Are bonuses considered a gift or is it a thank you from the employer for your contribution to the business for the last year? Should one write a thank you note for their thanking you? What is the proper way to accept Christmas bonuses?

GENTLE READER: With gracious thanks.

Miss Manners cannot imagine where you got the idea that thanks are only for what is undeserved. Or that you should err on the side of nonthanks when there is a doubt.

Why, people who are after your job have been sending thank you letters to your personnel department just for interviewing them. Surely you can squeeze out a word of thanks for the company’s having rewarded you, whether or not it was expected or contracted.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: How do you deal with grandchildren, ages 5, 10, 15, who have not learned or been guided by their parents in courtesies such as thank you notes?

As a grandparent, I feel a moral obligation to provide positive guidance but don’t know the best (if any) way to go about it. One such effort, what I thought was a courteous note to the parents, resulted in a hostile reply. And curtailing future gifts to young children whose parents’ neglect is responsible seems inappropriate.

GENTLE READER: Indeed, a grandparent should provide guidance, most notably to the parents two decades or longer before they become parents. Should these people lapse once they have outgrown such jurisdiction, their elders will have to do it all over again.

But not the same way, Miss Manners cautions them. As you have discovered, they cannot, with impunity, issue directives that contradict or criticize their grandchildren’s parents.

They are thus reduced to appealing to the children’s reason.

Choose some time when you have been playing happily with them, so they will not interpret your remarks as scolding.

“I wonder if I did something wrong,” you might muse. The prospect of a confession of wrong-doing from their seniors is of great interest to children.

Pressed for an explanation, you say, “I enjoy selecting presents for all of you, because I imagine them making you happy. But I must be wrong, because I never hear a word from you about them – not even whether they arrived, and never that you liked them.

“Should I stop sending them?”

There will be a chorus of “No!” after which you can say gently, “then I will expect some feedback from each of you.”

Readers may write to Miss Manners at MissManners
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