DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I was with a small group of ladies, none of whom I knew well, one of them made a very embarrassing, very personal, uncalled-for remark about me simply to get a laugh.
I naively expected a call of apology. Of course, I never received one. I had planned to tell her that I just do not enjoy bathroom humor.
The next time I saw her (I haven't had the courage to return to the group), I simply looked through her.
Am I allowed any more of a "reprimand" for her rudeness? I am still hurting and want to feel good about myself again.
GENTLE READER: More of a reprimand? Were you thinking of challenging her to a duel?
Refusing to recognize a person's existence has been the strongest form of reacting to insult since obliterating the person's existence at dawn was outlawed. Deprived of a sword, you have nevertheless made your point. Should you wish to return to the group, Miss Manners suggests avoiding a scene by turning your reaction up, just a notch, to cool.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: A woman at the office I manage became engaged recently, and her performance has suffered in the whirlwind of her wedding preparations. She frequently spends long amounts of time on personal phone calls coordinating wedding details, surfing the Internet on wedding-related Web sites and extending her lunch hour.
Her inefficiency forces the rest of the employees in the department to overcompensate for her neglected responsibilities. They have vented their resentments to me and I, in turn, have addressed these issues with my employee.
This woman is tolerable in the workplace, though by no means a pleasure to work with. To make matters worse, the fellow she is marrying is a previous employee whose volatility and poor performance earned him an early exit from his position here.
There are few, if any, co-workers who share in her enthusiasm about the upcoming nuptials, including myself. I'm not positive that this woman doesn't share the same distaste toward her co-workers, either, especially since only one person here was invited to the bridal shower next month.
As the manager of this department, what is the minimal gesture that should be extended to this woman in regards to her wedding celebration? Is it unreasonable to ask my staff to contribute to a gift for someone they are not fond of? Do we need to have a "work" shower for her with cake and gifts, etc., or will that seem forced and phony considering the lack of rapport between this woman and her co-workers (not to mention the underlying tension and aversion toward her fiance)? And is it impolite to not acknowledge it at all?
GENTLE READER: Why do you suppose Miss Manners keeps urging people (to no avail whatsoever) not to make personal celebrations into office parties?
These are not people who were drawn together voluntarily by mutual affection, but co-workers who are there to make their living. True, many of them may become friends and share one another's joys and sorrows, but others may find that a cordial working relationship is all they want or can manage to summon to conceal their distaste. As you have discovered, it can become too much to expect these people to fake warmth, which is a good reason for not setting up office events that require this.
Miss Manners suspects that she is telling you this too late. If you have been showering other employees, you must do the same for this one.