DEAR MISS MANNERS: As a senior manager in an office, I receive many employee visitors throughout the day. I encourage employees to stop by, as I have an open door policy.
As most of these visits are impromptu, I am usually in the middle of a project or other task and have many documents on my desk. I am surprised at how many people will ask about the documents on my desk! Just today, as I was working on a confidential acquisition, a co-worker stopped by, saw the document on my desk, and started quizzing me on what I was working on.
Miss Manners will not be happy to hear that my response was a question also -- "Do you have a habit of reading things on other people's desks?"
OK -- I know I was wrong. Is there a better response? Not only is this not their business, in many cases information needs to be confidential.
GENTLE READER: Shut the door.
Miss Manners realizes how shocking a shut-door policy appears to those who believe in the non-hierarchal workplace in spite of the obvious fact that there is no such thing. But your open-door policy isn't working. It is not a defense of this frank but rude snooping to point out that you are encouraging your employees to ignore boundaries.
The simple act of knocking reminds people that you are working, and makes your willingness to stop and listen to them all the more gratifying. It also gives you time to put your blotter on top of confidential papers.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My original proposal was to abolish Thanksgiving Day, but I have been talked into a compromise. I recommend that we rename this so-called holiday National Cheapskate and Freeloaders Day, which is what the holiday has evolved into.
As I wrote to you once before, I gave up my so-called restaurant license at home and decided to stop patronizing all those invitees who never reciprocated in return. Their excuse often was, "Oh, you are such a good cook we could never prepare anything that might please YOU."
Miss Manners, all they would have to do is invite us over and order a pizza and beer and soda and we would be happy. Hinting and being downright rude and demanding still does not get the message across to invite us over to their place for a change. Since there are so many restaurants out there that would appreciate our business, we will be patronizing them over the holidays.
A message to all you freeloaders and cheapskate parasites whom we entertained all these years and were overlooked by in return: "The free ride is over! Celebrate on your own; your gastronomic chiseling days are over." We are tired of being hosts to such parasites.
Can I get you to agree with me on this very legitimate complaint? I am sure there are many people who feel likewise, but are too embarrassed to say anything.
GENTLE READER: Or too tolerant or too sociable to become quite so bitter. Miss Manners remembers you, but was hoping you had gotten over it by now.
Mind you, she thoroughly agrees about the importance of reciprocation and shares your distaste for this particular excuse. But the sad fact is that most people really never learned to entertain, even simply, and you might make allowances for people you like who demonstrate their goodwill by inviting you out, doing you favors and otherwise trying to hold up their share of the friendship. When you find that they did give a Thanksgiving party -- which is to say, that they do entertain, they just don't entertain you -- it will be cause enough to give up on them.