DEAR MISS MANNERS: It seems like when an employer asks a question, it expects an honest answer.
Here's the thing. After several years with an organization I didn't care for, I got an offer for a new job -- at higher pay and with responsibilities that seem more in line with my skills. I have given several weeks of notice. This employer has a practice -- one of many busy-work functions designed by its human resources department to justify its own existence -- of asking departing staff to complete an exit interview that will ask about the reasons we are leaving.
I harbor no ill will toward any specific individuals. In fact, I have a decent relationship with my boss. But I can't help but savor the opportunity to give a truthful assessment of why I was anxious to leave: I found the organization's culture self-congratulatory, bloated, inflexible and unappreciative.
In my heart, I know that living well is the best revenge. But if they go through the trouble of asking why I'm leaving, am I at liberty to give an honest assessment? Or should I consider this letter to you my chance to vent?
Alternatively, do I simply hand back a blank survey? That also seems rude. But I really don't feel like investing the time to go into detail describing my notion of the problems. If they ever seemed to care, I might not have been so anxious to leave.
GENTLE READER: Come, now. Over those years, your employer asked you lots of honest questions: "Are you going to have this in by Thursday?" "Do you agree with my idea?" "Do you mind staying late?" and so on.
You did not give dishonest answers, Miss Manners trusts. But you phrased things in such a way as to avoid antagonizing management: "I'll try my best, but it's more complicated than we had thought." "It's a great idea, but I have a couple of suggestions." "Of course not, but unfortunately, tonight..."
But now that you are leaving, you want to give it to them straight. Don't. These people are in your past and in your field. You are only too likely to encounter them again.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My professional contact information is easily findable online, and recently, a former schoolmate looked me up and sent me a short, chatty e-mail. We did not get along well when we were younger, and I have almost no fond memories of her. I have no plans to e-mail her back.
Is this wrong of me? It feels a little bit rude, but I really have no wish to become reacquainted with her.
GENTLE READER: Among the blessings that e-mail brings us are indiscriminate spam filters, inexplicable systems failures and overcrowded in-boxes. Thus your would-be correspondent is more likely than in slower days to believe that her letter went astray, and thus not to realize that you snubbed her.
Miss Manners suggests you remember this convenience when you feel yourself exploding because vital e-mail is not getting through.