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Miss Manners: Spouses being excluded from work events

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

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When is it considered impolite to exclude spouses from work-sponsored events?

My husband is often invited to dinner with his entire office: They have a casual, social dinner with a co-worker visiting from an out-of-town branch. Spouses are not invited.

I’ve told him that I consider this rude on the part of his office administrator, but he says that it would be rude of them to make their colleague eat alone before going to the hotel, and that they don’t have the budget to feed everyone and their spouses.

To this I say: Invite only the higher-ups and their spouses to take the office guest to dinner, or ask for a small group of volunteers who can take him/her, rather than making it mandatory for everyone to spend an evening away from their spouse.

As another example, they held a retirement party for one of their co-workers, and spouses were not invited for the same reason (budget). I understand spouses not being invited, but then it should be scheduled as a retirement luncheon, not a dinner.

Bottom line for me is: If it’s after hours, unless you’re doing official business, employees shouldn’t be expected to leave their spouses at home in order to attend events with other employees. Am I wrong in thinking that his office isn’t behaving according to proper etiquette?

GENTLE READER: His office is mostly confused – and with good reason, given the inability of society generally to separate the personal from the professional.

Miss Manners understands that bosses are too busy telling everyone they “put their people first” to have any time left to consider the comfort of their employees.

Asking employees to work after hours is sometimes necessary, but always an imposition. (And before someone protests that these dinners are not work, but fun: Are employees free to decline without consequence?)

Everything should therefore be done to minimize the inconvenience to employees. Inviting spouses is one possible solution, but causes its own problems: Most employees do not consider such invitations optional, and spouses may resent being asked to do work for their spouse’s employer. It also puts single workers in an awkward position (are they permitted a guest of their choosing?) and leaves employees with children searching – and paying – for child care. A better solution is the one you suggest: namely, being thoughtful about how many employees are invited, and how frequently.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My girlfriend was divorced from her husband for 14 years. When he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, they remarried for legal/tax reasons. He died six months after that. How long should we wait before living together?

GENTLE READER: The question you have asked is easier to answer than the one you have not, but perhaps should have.

You make clear that the remarriage was, for lack of a better word, impersonal. Those who are more fastidious than Miss Manners (an admittedly small group) may express concern at the propriety of a marriage “for legal/tax reasons.” If, however, you treat it as the financial transaction that it was – and therefore neglect to make reference to it among friends and acquaintances – you will find your second problem solved, as no one can question you moving in with your girlfriend 14 years after her divorce.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,

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