Q: I give my secretary a gift in appreciation for dedicated work over the year, but she misinterprets my intention and gives me gifts throughout the year.
The last was a book with a personal message written inside. I do not wish to take this book home, nor do I want to leave it in the office for my colleagues to see. Consequently it was, like all the other gifts, trashed in the nearest can on the street.
Please do not think I am ungrateful. The trouble is that I show appreciation because I do not know how to tactfully tell her I want the practice to stop. I don't want to be rude, as she is a good secretary.
Why can't a boss be a kind, polite and nice person to his secretary, without her thinking he is a personal friend and should be showered with gifts?
A: Any exchange of presents in the office encourages that kind of thinking, Miss Manners believes. Why can't you show your appreciation with an annual bonus, rather than adding the personal touch of selecting a present (especially as Miss Manners suspects that you sent your nephew a check for his wedding because you claim you never know what your relatives want)?
However, your secretary's behavior is certainly a large further step in the wrong direction. Even your close friends probably do not shower you with presents throughout the year; she has the decided air of courting you.
Acceptance will not discourage this. You must retreat, albeit tardily, into the kind, polite, nice but impersonal manner of proper office behavior. An excellent way to start would be to give her that bonus for Christmas, along with the statement: "I really suppose this will be more useful. You know, I never did think that presents were appropriate among working colleagues."
Q: My twin daughters were recently attendants at their cousin's wedding. Since we live at a great distance, my sister and her daughter, the bride, arranged to have the dresses made with measurements sent by mail to her. I offered to pay for the dresses, but my sister refused and paid for them herself.
However, the day before the wedding, when my daughters were trying on the dresses, my niece informed them that she was keeping their dresses as keepsakes. This was both a surprise and a disappointment for my daughters, as it had not been discussed before this.
Was this proper etiquette? Should we have voiced disappointment?
A: Keepsakes? Is she reserving them in case this marriage doesn't work out? Does the bride want a supply of identical evening dresses?
It is certainly odd, but Miss Manners sees no alternative to letting it go. Any discussion about who keeps the dresses is bound to deteriorate into "Well, I paid for them," always an unseemly argument when connected with a wedding.
Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper.