DEAR AMY: I work in a very small office setting (five employees). At Christmastime, token gifts have been exchanged (one person always gives tins of homemade cookies, another gives candles, etc., while another seems to find the smallest, most unattractive items she can find to give to me). I have always tried to make and give gifts that I have put some special thought and time into, which may appear to some as being cheap.

Over this past year, the relationships with these three employees have deteriorated significantly because I stood firm on a professional and ethical issue that exposed the business and myself to liability. Heated words were hurled at me by one colleague in particular, leaving me stunned. The other two were not happy and continually let me know so through body language and offhand comments. Our boss is completely supportive of my actions.

Several months later, the other employees and I talk as needed to keep the office running, but it’s still tense. I feel that, now that they’ve shown their true colors, we should pass on the Christmas gift-giving this year.

Do I need to make an announcement that I’m not participating in any gift-giving, or simply not give them a gift when the time comes?

My wife says no announcement. The boss just wants everybody to get along. What do you say, Amy? -- Ethical and Unappreciated

DEAR ETHICAL: I think the ethical thing to do is to continue to rise above other people’s pettiness and rudeness and to remember that this upcoming holiday is supposed to be all about peace on Earth and goodwill toward all people (including colleagues).

Evidently that’s not the holiday you intend to celebrate this year; if so, then you need to imagine how you will feel when you receive gifts from others (no matter how cruddy) and you have no intention of participating. Perhaps you should head off this awkwardness and make a simple statement in advance: “Due to the tension in the office, I think it’s best if I don’t participate in the gift exchange this year.”

Just know that if you do this, the situation at work has little hope of improving.

DEAR AMY: I am a 23-year-old woman, in a relationship with a 25-year-old man. We have been dating for nine months, but lately I have noticed he has changed. I feel as though I am making 85 percent of the driving trips to see him during the week (we live 25 minutes from each other).

He claims to be too tired or “not up to it” to come see me. He wants to move back to his home town (12 hours away). He hates it here and has changed jobs twice in two years. He can’t settle down anywhere. He is very unhappy, and it shows.

I feel so heartbroken that he just wants to leave without focusing on our relationship. He claims to love me and care for me, but he doesn’t show it. I don’t want to get involved in a long-distance relationship.

I love him dearly, and I care about him, but I feel he’s not giving the full 100 percent in this relationship. Is he being selfish? Should I let him go? -- Let Down

DEAR LET DOWN: Your guy is unhappy and depressed. The most loving and generous thing you can do is realize that this likely has nothing to do with you or your relationship. He cannot focus on you right now because he is depleted and depressed.

You should encourage him to do whatever he needs to do to feel better. That’s how you will show him how much you love him. If he needs to visit (or move) back to his home town, then you should encourage him to go, and try your hardest to do this with a loving spirit.

DEAR AMY: “Frustrated Family” felt pressure to include a sister’s abusive husband in holiday events, even though the couple were now separated.

I agreed with your advice, Amy. The sister is now separated from this jerk, and now the family gets to be separated from him too. -- Fan

DEAR FAN: Thank you.

Amy’s column appears seven days a week at Write to Amy Dickinson at or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

by the Chicago Tribune