(The formal announcement of the change will be made on Tuesday, Sept. 3; you can find our press release that day at universaluclick.com. Both Nicholas and Jacobina have co-written books with their mother, and now their collaboration will extend to newspapers. We are delighted to welcome Nicholas and Jacobina to Universal Uclick, and we know your readers will enjoy this new generation's take on manners in an ever-changing social world.)
DEAR MISS MANNERS: As the executive director of human resources for a hospital, I have employees coming to me with a variety of issues. The greatest challenges are those that are basically interpersonal conflicts.
Perhaps it is our nature, but people present the side of the story that they think will elicit the greatest sympathy from me, not only failing to report the whole story, but also exaggerating and even fabricating details.
I can find myself in awkward situations, trying to hold people accountable for things that they didn't necessarily do, or feeling skepticism rise in me instead of listening wholeheartedly.
How can I politely inquire of people, "What are you not telling me?" Not that I can't do my own investigation, but I wish people realized that I am not called to take sides in disputes.
GENTLE READER: It is indeed our nature, but fortunately you have asked Miss Manners how to get at the truth politely, not how to reform the tendency of human resources (or what used to be called "people") to embellish their complaints.
The solution rests in your expressed desire to listen wholeheartedly. When Mason complains that Madison took his stapler and yelled at him, encourage him to tell his story and listen to what he says. Most people's exaggerations are a casual play for sympathy, not a scripted or well-rehearsed attempt to deceive.
Three minutes in, Mason is more likely than not to confess that last week he took Madison's mouse pad without asking, thus saving you the trouble of an extended investigation.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I frequently wear black tie for various events -- I'm a choral singer where black tie is standard performance dress -- and I also have a fairly large cufflink collection from my travels. When wearing black tie, must one wear the cufflinks matching the shirt studs, or is one free to choose whatever cufflinks one likes?
GENTLE READER: With many gentlemen taking horrid, unwarranted liberties with evening dress, Miss Manners hesitates to say, "Oh, go for it." Why adult males believe it "creative" to dress as if they are attending the middle school prom, with their turtleneck shirts, pallbearers' long black ties and gaudy cummerbunds, she cannot imagine.
But she is all the more happy to tell you that no, your cufflinks need not match your shirt studs.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When interviewing for a job, is it considered bad manners to ask how much the job pays? Ironically, it is not bad manners for the employer to ask how much you have earned in your previous jobs.
Do you see a problem with this practice? Isn't the real question how much are both parties willing to agree upon in the business relationship?
GENTLE READER: Your tone suggests a certain impatience with Miss Manners, who is forced to point out in her own defense that her only action, thus far, has been to read a letter addressed to her.
Who says that it is bad manners to ask how much a job pays? Certainly not Miss Manners. Bans about discussing money in personal situations do not apply in the business world.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)