Miss Manners by Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Location of Surprise Birthday Party Is Surprise to the Host

DEAR MISS MANNERS: In a department that gives performance-based commissions, one of my co-workers began prodding me with questions about my commission: "What were your numbers last month?" "Have you gotten your commission check yet?" and so on.

I attempted to deflect her by saying, "Oh, I haven't paid much attention. Everything gets direct-deposited, and I never check my deposit statements. Remind me never to do your finances."

The joke does not seem to have discouraged her, however, as she recently began asking our supervisor about her commissions -- specifically, how they compare to mine.

I don't know what the privacy policies are like in this office (I am fairly new here), but I'm not keen on everyone knowing exactly how much I make. Nor do I care for the notion that my co-workers are in on the assessment of my performance. In any case, the questioning strikes me as rather nosy and off-putting.

Can Miss Manners recommend a way to discourage these questions in a clear and definitive way without harming what is otherwise a nice and friendly professional relationship?

GENTLE READER: Discussing money at work is not, Miss Manners likes to point out, subject to the normal ban on the topic in a nonprofessional setting. But that does not make it acceptable in the situation you describe.

Your attempt to deflect the question with humor is more attuned to a social than a business setting. "I'm sorry, but I do not want to discuss it," followed by a quick pivot to a less delicate subject, is both more businesslike and more likely to be effective.

(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, dearmissmanners@gmail.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)