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Miss Manners: Colleague’s donation request feels more like extortion

By Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin Andrews McMeel Syndication

DEAR MISS MANNERS: A work colleague has posed that we give an impromptu holiday gift to a cleaning staff member in our building. The “minimum donation” is far above what any of us at work feels comfortable giving.

One of us politely let him know that his request borders on extortion, especially given the aggressive nature in which he posed his request (e.g., threats that non-participants will be labeled “anti-immigrant” and “anti-Christmas”).

I don’t disagree with my colleague’s impulse to be generous in the holiday season, but I’m deeply disturbed that he’s perhaps using this act as a way to demonstrate his leadership skills and power in the office.

I’m wondering if there’s an alternate way to express our gratitude to the cleaning staff, rather than through large sums of money.

GENTLE READER: Gratitude to employees is best expressed with money, although the amount must be determined by each contributor.

But Miss Manners assures you that you needn’t worry about your colleague’s leadership skills – he doesn’t have any. Issuing bills and adding threats is no way to lead people. And to remove any sense of power, you need only ignore this and contribute what you see fit.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am frequently invited to one-on-one lunches by representatives of various alumni and charitable organizations that I donate money to.

While I do try to accommodate these requests, which are essentially fundraising overtures for the organizations, I find myself at a loss as to who should pay the bill.

I’ve always thought that the person extending the invitation should pick up the check, and most of the time they do, but there have been a couple of awkward occasions when my lunch partner left it to me to pay. What’s the correct thing to do here?

GENTLE READER: You can hardly avoid paying if you are left with a silent luncheon partner. But you can resolve not to be caught again.

Miss Manners imagines that the representative justifies this as not adding to the organization’s expenses. But you may equally well justify it by subtracting the amount from your donation.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Every year, my husband and I host a potluck Christmas party in our home. We spend considerable time sending out written invitational flyers and decorating our house.

We ask that everyone RSVP, and many do. However, there are some who do not acknowledge the invitation and do not attend. Others do not acknowledge it, but then they do attend.

With all the various avenues for communication these days (phone, text, email, Facebook message, etc.), do you find it unacceptable that people ignore the RSVP? Should I remove them from the party list?

GENTLE READER: Sure. With those who ignored both the invitation and the party, you’ll achieve the same effect as if you had invited them.

As this is an annual party, Miss Manners assures you that the errant guests will complain that they have not received invitations. Then you can say, “Oh, would you like to attend? My list says you didn’t respond last year, so I didn’t think so.”

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,; to her email,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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