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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Miss Manners: How do I get manager off speaker?

Judith Martin And Nicholas Ivor Martin Universal Uclick

DEAR MISS MANNERS: There is a manager at work who always answers and keeps his phone in speaker mode. He does not do that to his boss – just everyone else. I feel it is rude to keep the phone in speaker mode when you are in a one-on-one conversation. When I ask him to pick up, he refuses. I may start off a call in speaker mode just to get through the button pushing, but when a person picks up, I always pick up the handset. What do you think?

GENTLE READER: If you object to the sound quality when the speaker mode is used, Miss Manners suggests you apologize and explain that you cannot understand what is being said. If you object to being overheard by people in the next cubicle, explain that what you have to say is sensitive.

If you feel that someone on a speakerphone is apt to be “multi-tasking” – a modern word coined to replace the phrase “not paying attention” – you are most likely right. But alas, Miss Manners does not recommend ordering your manager to pay attention.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the best way to discuss bad table manners with subordinates? Our work entails many meetings with clients, and I have observed and heard slurping, smacking of lips and shoveling in food like they are starving – plus talking with their mouths full. It is extremely embarrassing and offensive.

GENTLE READER: It is rude to correct another’s manners. However, as there is no way to change your subordinates’ behavior without correcting their manners, what you are looking for is someone else to blame.

Miss Manners recommends the absent client. Most employees are smart enough to accept the face-saving device that manners, like dress, must be “professional,” and not take it as an outrageous restriction of their freedom to be offensive and badly groomed.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,; to her email, dearmissmanners@; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.
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