Q: While I was dining at a restaurant near my husband's business the other day, a woman employe, aged 56, whom I had met at a recent retirement party for an office supervisor, asked if she could dine with me, because she had something to discuss.
She said her boss had threatened her and made false accusations, and that she was worried about being fired. She asked if I would get my husband, who is the company president, to speak with his employe about these threats.
I wonder if it would be proper for me to get involved. I feel sorry for the woman, who has only four years until her retirement after 35 years with the company, but I am afraid that if I do intercede, it might make matters worse for her. I know that as long as the woman's boss, who is 45, does his job, my husband will not fire him for rough verbal treatment of another employe, but this woman does have to work with him. What would you do if you were me?
A. Sad as this situation is, asking a company official's wife to intercede in his business is highly improper, and you cannot consent. If you were president of a company, you would not care to have an employe appeal to your husband to circumvent your business procedures.
Unfortunately, you did not reply at the time that while you appreciated her confidence, you were powerless to do anything. Even if you and your husband talk over all his decisions -- even if you actually run the company, with him as a front -- this would be the correct response.
If, in fact, you do share confidences about work, you will of course tell him what happened. Miss Manners trusts you to soften this by pleading that the lady herself obviously did not understand the impropriety of a route that would have taken her 1) over her boss' head and 2) behind that person's back.
You tell the employe: "I passed on your message, but you really must understand that I do not work for the company; I don't expect to hear what, if anything, he is going to do about this. But I do wish you well."
Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper.