Q: My profession involves hiring and dealing with free-lance workers. This includes sending them, for cost estimates, materials that are later replaced by altered and/or corrected materials before their work can begin.
Besides requesting the return of such materials with the cost estimate, what am I to do with someone who runs amok with his task?
When I explained that any work done prior to the free-lancer's receipt of the final materials would not be acceptable, an unpleasant argument ensued. I was accused of treating a free-lancer like a child (because of my insistence that he have the correct materials to work with, I gather), and I found myself making threatening remarks. I did not, however, actually reassign the project to someone else.
Also, what can be done with someone who has provided unacceptable work, but then refuses suggestions or direction? In such a case, I feel compelled to take over the task myself, but would prefer to continue the working relationship.
Lastly, what is to be done with people who persist in (in fact, who insist on) explaining to me how I should do my job? Is "Oh, do you really think so?" a correct response?
I feel less than courteous in these situations, though I try to deal with them (both the people and the situations) as politely as possible. What can I do or say to maintain good working relationships for the duration of each project with such people, even if I am planning never to work with them again?
A: The disadvantage of all this talk about relationships among workers is that people tend to lose sight of the fact that there is a difference between the employers and the employed. Even the temporary bond between you and free-lance workers only exists if you choose to award them jobs.
Thus, good working relationships are nothing like social relationships among equals, or family relationships, such as are implied in the accusation of your treating the workers like children. A good working relationship is one in which the employer sets the terms, and the employe understands and accepts them.
If your rules are such that competent people do not compete for your jobs, you ought to reconsider them. But if such is not the case, you are under no obligation to open them, or your own job performance, to debate by your free-lancers.
The courteous but businesslike thing to say is, "I'm sorry, but these are the terms of the job, and if you find them unacceptable we will not be able to work together."
Q: We are a middle-aged couple and have recently moved to Miami. We have taken up the game of golf at the area's many beautiful public courses.
Almost every weekend we meet other couples at random on the courses and are paired off with them by the club starters. Without fail, the other couple always introduces themselves as "We're Joe and Edith" or "We're Sally and Bob," never giving a last name.
Being raised in the Southwest, where introductions such as "I am Bob Jones and this is my wife, Mary," are correct, it is very embarrassing and awkward for us to accept this form of introduction, even though we are aware that possibly we will never see the couple again.
At one point, my husband said, "I didn't catch your last name" and was given a mumbled response.
Is this typical for this part of the country? We are made to feel as if they don't trust us enough to give a last name, they feel it isn't important or they just don't know good manners in introductions.
A: Miss Manners, who spends an increasing amount of her time and emotional energy deploring the instant usage of first names in the adult world, with its phony veneer of instant friendship and kindergarten denial of dignity, nevertheless recognizes another possible factor here.
The trouble with a proper introduction, such as you correctly describe, is that it is, indeed, an introduction. People with whom you are accidentally thrown, neither of you seeking the other's company, may not wish to treat this as the beginning of a friendship. Thus by withholding their surnames, they are protecting some privacy while seeming to meet you.
It is, Miss Manners agrees, a silly way of making a social compromise. But she advises you to let it pass.