DEAR MISS MANNERS: I work in a small company with about a dozen employees, who I genuinely like and enjoy. But I’m a little bit antisocial sometimes when it comes to casually chatting up my co-workers. Sometimes the stress of the job, and my own anxieties, make it seem like I’m unhappy or disapproving of something, when it’s really a thousand other things going through my mind.
One of my co-workers discreetly told me that another co-worker had filed an informal complaint about me, saying that I don’t like her and treat her badly. I really want to approach her and offer her an apology for the perceived slight -- try to explain that I do like her and it’s all just a big misunderstanding. However, the co-worker who told me does not want it revealed that she did so.
I don’t feel like I can leave it alone. This co-worker is gay, and the fact that she even thinks I don’t like her because of that is a slippery slope when it comes to discrimination and employment issues. How do I clear this up without making things worse?
We don’t have a true human resources department. In fact, I’m the longest-tenured employee, so I don’t even have a middle manager in my department I can approach about this. To be clear, I am not anyone’s boss, and don’t have authority over her or anyone else.
GENTLE READER: It is Miss Manners’ understanding that informal complaints are ones made by one equal to another in the break room while waiting for Keith to get his meatloaf out of the microwave. There is no filing involved. If what has happened is no more serious than this, then a concerted effort on your part to be more friendly to this co-worker may be sufficient.
If a more formal complaint was made -- or accusations were reported to a superior -- it is time to involve someone in a position of authority. The lack of a human resources department does not mean that no one is tasked with handling employment issues. (It may mean that no one is good at handling employment issues, but that could have been the case even if you had a human resources department.) Both you and the co-worker in question must have bosses to whom you can express your concern and protest your innocence.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My friend Melody, a bit of a snob, doesn’t own a car and often requests a ride into town. This is fine, but she always has me drop her a few blocks from our main square, saying she “could use a bit of a walk.” She does this even when it’s raining, and it sometimes involves an awkward stop on busy roads.
I’ve learned that she doesn’t do this with her other, more upscale friends, and I suspect she doesn’t want to be seen with me or alighting from my old economy car. I confess I’m a little hurt, and am wanting to confront her on this.
GENTLE READER: Fulfilling as it would be to change your friend’s behavior, confronting her about it is unlikely to accomplish more than embarrassing both of you. If you really want to get even, Miss Manners recommends you fail to notice what is happening, which will leave her cold and wet -- ample punishment for her transgression.
(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, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)