DEAR MISS MANNERS: I work at a rather large corporate office. This year, we've had several top executives leave, and our human resources manager, who has organized going-away parties for them, directly solicits money from the staff.
She makes public lists of who has donated, and how much. More importantly, she keeps a list of who doesn't donate.
I'm nearly 40 and am one of the lowest-paid people in the office. The exiting execs (who have not retired, just left for better opportunities) have salaries well into the six figures and bonuses double that.
Asking for $25 still isn't a lot, and it's something I'd be willing to invest for my career, or donate toward a meaningful gift, or a gift for someone I know. It just feels awkward when the donations go to envelopes of cash.
There is no going-away gift, just cash or gift credit cards. There are going-away cards, but only certain people in the office are allowed to sign them, regardless of donation. Ultimately, I probably need to just do what I'm told and fork over the cash to the millionaire, but is there an etiquette alternative?
GENTLE READER: Wait -- your executives left for better opportunities? Not for jail or breadlines?
Has Miss Manners held onto this question too long?
Even if so, the attitude behind it is indicative of current problems. Years ago, many businesses offered retirement parties and presents to employees at all levels. Then -- even before hard times hit -- they decided to cut costs, but not by abandoning such perks, which would at least have been a defensible business decision.
Instead, they kept them, paying when it concerned executives while expecting the lower-level employees to sponsor them for one another. What you describe is a new low -- expecting the lower-level to sponsor the higher.
Miss Manners understands that it is difficult for individuals to resist pressure from above. You must enlist your colleagues, some of whom will be timid but none of whom, she dares say, will be disappointed to be deprived of the chance to enrich the rich. It will be sufficient for all of you to say that you are sorry not to participate, but that at your salaries, you cannot afford that luxury.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My niece sent her grand aunt a thank you note for her college graduation gift of money. My aunt was offended because she was addressed as "Dear Mr. and Mrs. Smith," not "Dear Aunt Mary and Uncle Frank ... thank your for your generous gift of money...."
My aunt is hurt by how impersonal the note was from my niece. It's been five months. Is it too late for my niece to make things right? How should she go about it?
GENTLE READER: Although Miss Manners is not in the habit of writing young people's letters for them, she is softened by the fact that your daughter did write and that although she erred, it was on the side of formality.
So here goes: "Dear Aunt Mary and Uncle Frank, I am devastated to think that my clumsy note might have sounded cold, rather than respectful. It is a privilege to be able to address you as my very dear Aunt Mary and Uncle Frank."
No, this doesn't make any sense. However, it will work.