DEAR MISS MANNERS: I work in a corporate setting and sit in a cubicle. My assistant sits about 10 feet away in her cube. Just about every single time someone comes to my desk to speak with me, she runs over to "crash" the conversation.
This happens about three or more times a day. The last time she did it -- about 15 minutes ago -- she actually hopped up onto my desk and began swinging her legs! I tried to be subtle and ask her, "Gee, are you comfortable up there?" to which she coolly replied, "Yes, very, thank you."
I'm not sure how I can address this with her without offending her and hurting her feelings. It is extremely annoying that she listens in to all of my phone conversations as it is (which may be unavoidable when you work in cubicles), but now that she physically runs over to butt into my private conversations, I have reached the end of my rope.
Please let me know if there is a way to gently remind her that even though she can hear my conversations, she is not necessarily welcome to join in each one. I would greatly appreciate your guidance.
GENTLE READER: Wait a second -- this person is your assistant. You are her boss, or at least her immediate supervisor. And you are afraid of hurting her feelings if you tell her to get off your desk?
Mind you, Miss Manners yields to no one in the firmness of her belief in good office manners. She would never countenance your saying, as many bosses would, "Get the blank off my desk, and by the way, mind your own business when I have visitors."
But she would accept, "Please understand that I do not want you ever to sit on my desk, whether I am here or not. And when I have visitors, please do not join us unless I expressly ask you to."
You certainly have a stunningly cheeky assistant there. Did she sit on your lap during the job interview? But even employees with tact and sense may need to be told what your particular wishes are about participating in the work you are doing. An office is not a party where you are trying to make the guests feel at home and can take solace in the fact that those who abuse the privilege need not be invited again.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Please give me some advice on how to behave at the upcoming religious rite of passage for the 14-year-old daughter of my wife's sister and her divorced husband. He left her and the children for another woman just last year, having behaved adulterously during the marriage, and all know my sister-in-law is a wronged woman.
I have advised my 22-year-old son that he may not "give him the sound thrashing that he deserves," but what is a civilized man to do? Ignore him completely? A civil nod without a handshake? I'm OK with letting life go on, but this event is too close to his perfidy to act as if nothing is wrong. Or am I being incorrect?
GENTLE READER: You are being incorrect if your reaction upon seeing this person is more interesting to the other guests than the religious rite being celebrated. With that understanding, Miss Manners gives you permission to attempt to get away with pretending not to see him or to see his outstretched hand.