DEAR MISS MANNERS: My dilemma stems from being new in a small office where tight bonds have already been formed, and new people are understandably on the fringe for a while. The problem relates to a small baby shower being thrown for a lovely young mother who is a delight to know.
The words "baby shower" had been tossed around quite a bit my second week, but as a new staff member, I felt hesitant to inquire further unless addressed directly, which I was not.
That was all fine until they had the "surprise" baby shower at the office, and I just stood there empty-handed.
I understand and completely agree with your take that this is why business and friendship do not go hand-in-hand, but within my community, it's apparently become a cultural thing. And with such a small company and office, things are not likely to change. Unfortunately, this is just one example of a stream of undesirable behavior on the part of key office "players."
Other than this drama, I actually love my new job. The company is excellent in many ways, has a stellar reputation and is known for taking good care of employees. I can see myself growing and thriving with this company in other capacities, and don't want to throw away a wonderful opportunity for career growth because of petty office politics.
Is it possible to survive and/or thrive with such tricky office dynamics, particularly as it pertains to finding greener pastures within this company in the future?
GENTLE READER: Let us fast-forward to a time when you have risen in this office and are in a position to welcome newcomers.
Do you tell the new employee, "We're having a shower for Tanya tomorrow -- she's that nice lady over there; I'll introduce you -- so you might want to bring a present"?
Miss Manners hopes not. Actually, she hopes that if you achieve a position of authority, you will act on your agreement that business and social lives should be kept separate. But that's for another time.
For now it would help to stop thinking of the existing situation as petty and tricky, even if you have more convincing examples. If you are cheerful and helpful as you go about your work, the time will surely come when you are asked to arrange the baby shower.