1. Annette

    In my secretarial classes (many years ago) I was taught that a secretary should not give a gift to her boss. Has this changed? For several years, I would give a gift (something for the house or entire family such as a poinsettia) and address it to my boss and his wife. But my duties have changed due to downsizing and letting go a co-worker so I now have three bosses. They have given me nice gifts and I really feel bad not reciprocating – especially since the previous co-worker made a big deal of giving really nice gifts to everyone – but I can’t afford to do that. Have the rules changed?

    • Alicia

      I have always thought that you only give cards up the company food chain and you gift down the company food chain. I find it alkward when one of my employees gives me a gift as I know how little they make and I wonder in my head if it is due to January reviews coming up.
      For your boss if you give them a holiday card and a thank you note for the gift that is all that you need. Even the Holiday card is not required but darn nice.

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      Alicia is right. Giving gifts to bosses can be seen as brown-nosing and can upset your fellow secretaries. The only time a gift would be acceptable is if you have a relationship with your boss outside of work and would like to give him or her a gift based on that friendship, in which case you should do so outside of work.

    • Jerry

      Depends on the culture of the company and the relationship between secretary and the so-called “boss.” Mine is such that our secretaries get very expensive gifts. My secretary (whom I share with 3 others) gives me an interesting (although not necessarily expensive) bottle of wine, pound of coffee, or similar gift.

  2. Winifred Rosenburg

    I am sometimes hired to play music at church services and am unsure to what extent I should participate in the service. At points when I am not playing, should I stand and sit with the congregation (while still holding my instrument)? Should I say responses or sing in places where everyone is meant to participate? I am sometimes seated in the choir loft where it is unlikely anyone would notice my participation or lack there of, but sometimes I am seated right in the front where my behavior is very noticable. Does it make a difference if I am a member of the denomination of the church?

    • Elizabeth

      This is both a question of etiquette and one of conscience. I think the standing and sitting at appropriate times is a sign of respect, not a proclamation of belief, so I would do that (unless your instrument precludes you from doing so). However, certain phrases and responses have more to do with faith and belief than just showing respect, so I would not participate in the responses unless you actually believe them. If it’s uncomfortable for you to be positioned ‘front and center’ in the sanctuary, then perhaps you could ask to be positioned to one side or some place less obvious.

      The other thing you could do would be to ask the clergy of the church where you are performing. You could explain that while you do not share the faith, you do want to be respectful of the services, and could s/he provide any guidance as to how to do that?

  3. Alexander

    I have a Christmas card conundrum. I know that more formal correspondence should always be addressed (i.e. the address on the envelope) with titles – Mr. and Mrs. Robert Soandso. I also know that more informal correspondence can be addressed to Rob and Lizzie Soandso.

    When to use which is what has me puzzled. Is the former form reserved for invitations from brides-to-be and debutantes? What about Christmas cards? Sympathy cards? Thank you notes? Friendly letters? Does it depend as much on the recipient as the subject?

    What are your thoughts?

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      The envelope should say Mr. and Mrs. Robert Soandso or some variant on that for the purpose of space or their preferences and the card itself should say whatever you actually call them.

  4. Alicia

    Formal- Formal invites, Sympathy cards, some thank you notes for formal situations , Professional Christmas Cards
    Informal- Friendly notes, Personal Christmas Cards, Birthday cards, Casual party invites

  5. Jennifer

    I work as a personal chef, and a once-a-week client that I bend over backwards for and have been working for for over a year has not tipped me or even given me a holiday card. I know I cant say anything (and wouldnt even consider saying anything!) but this is so hurtful. The client is actually really very sweet and I cant understand how they can go about their business without showing any appreciation. I gave them a beautiful box of a unique variety of pears, and she attached a post-it to the bowl the pears were in saying “these are delicious, thank you Jennifer!” Thats it, nothing else. I really am so offended and insulted. I simply cannot understand this behaviour (in New York City to boot!) Should I lessen my service to her without doing any extra favors (and possibly risk losing her as a client) or just stick it out and remind myself next year not to expect anything?

    • Alicia

      You are confusing personal and proffessional. As a proffesional you should not expect a holiday gift or card or such. It is lovely to recieve one but not obligatory. Gifts are never a requirement to recieve. You charge a fee for the lovely work that you do and they pay that fee. If you feel that you are not being sufficiently compensated for the work you do you can up your fee structure and charge more. You may lose the client if you become too expensive but that is a buisness decision. Be the wonderful buisness woman you most certainly must be and realize that this is buisness and they are not required to give you a holiday bonus if you do not have it in your contract.

      • Jennifer

        Alicia, thank you for this. You are right, I should not expect a gift, even if I give one to them. Everyone has their own way of dealing with (or not dealing with) holiday gifts and appreciation to service people at the end of the year, and although my service to them is quite personal because I cook with my heart and care for them in a way that sustains them, it is indeed a professional relationship. It is just not the norm in NYC and the post-it put me off a bit as a way to thank me for a gift i thoughtfully chose to give them. Happy Holidays Alicia!!

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      Some people are just clueless, and it doesn’t occur to them that they should consider tipping people like their personal chef. I am also a New Yorker, and I teach private lessons. Every year I am surprised by the difference in tips various families give me. This year one family gave me more than double what I charge for a lesson (plus the usual lesson fee) and other families gave me nothing. I try to not count on tips so if I get one it’s a pleasant surprise. On principle, they shouldn’t feel obligated to give me a tip. As Alicia said, if you feel you deserve more, you can always raise your rates.

      • Zakafury

        Holiday tipping is widespread, but not mandatory. There are certainly places it is more expected – NYC. The advice about raising rates is very good anywhere, though.

        Winifred, the only regular professional service I get from one individual is my hair stylist. In looking for a guideline for a holiday tip, a single visit’s fee was a suggestion. If I hired a music teacher or tutor weekly. I might tip more than one visit’s amount. I double my stylist’s pay for the Month, I could see being similarly generous (depending on the fee and my financial situation, of course.)

        The gift from Jennifer to her clients seems like a sort of holiday touch which might be included in the service. While they might not realize a personal chef is accustomed to a holiday tip, the post-it might have been intended to be a professional communication…like thanking your accountant for sending a calendar.

        • I worked for several years as a personal property appraiser in the NYC area (the five boroughs and NJ), and though we provided a very personal service for clients, we were never given holiday tips or bonuses. Many clients came every year for year-end appraisals for charitable contribution purposes (tax season is upon us!), but no gifts were exchanged nor expected. As a couple people pointed out, our hourly fee was what we were paid for our professional services, and if we felt we deserved more for whatever reason, we charged more per hour.

          • Jennifer

            All great comments, thank you! I must point out, similar to what Winifred said, my year-end gifts from clients vary a great deal. Some clients give me more than my weekly rate and even their parents give me a holiday tip (that is how close I am to my clients – I become part of their family) while others dont bat an eye. The post-it though, was totally impersonal and feel a little more effort could be made to be thankful. It wasnt a gift I gave to all of my clients, like a calendar from an accountant, and it certainly didnt cost the same amount. I do feel grateful in this economy to have clients for such a seemingly “luxury” service and going forward will not have any expectations of any gratuitous gestures. Again, happy holidays to everyone!!

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      An add-on to this discussion: if a family gives me a holiday tip, should I send a thank-you note? I was just writing some and my husband said it’s weird. He said it’s not so weird if I write one for a gift card or an actual gift but cash tips shouldn’t get a note. Thoughts?

  6. Matt

    I’m a door opener. I have always made the effort to make sure I hold the door for the next person, it’s just a second out of your life and the right thing to do. My question is, in New England and other chilly parts of the world it is commonplace to have to walk through two sets of doors, one right after the other, to enter or exit a commercial establishment– I have ALWAYS wondered if a second ‘thank you’ is necessary. I almost always receive an appropriate ‘thanks’ or ‘thank you’ at door one, to thank me again 2 seconds later at door two seems awkward and forced. What’s the EP ruling on this?

    • Country Girl

      I always appreciate hearing that there are still gentleman among us. I have never read or heard an “official” EPI ruling on this particular issue. I, personally, will say thank you twice if the distance between each door is such that holding each displays 2 kindnesses (if that makes sense). If the gentleman is able to hold both doors at once, as is sometimes the case, then I will typically say thank you once.

      In any case, I think a second thank you (however awkward) is always better than none at all! =)

      • Alicia

        Two doors in quick succession I always think require a smile and thank you at first and a smile at second. But that is just my opinion.

    • Elizabeth

      If you open the first door and allow the person to go through the door before you, how on earth do you reach the second door to open for them a second time? You must be very quick on your toes!

      I agree with CG – if they thank you twice, say ‘you’re welcome’ twice, or you can just nod or say ‘no problem’ or whatever comes naturally. If it were me, I would say thanks, and then ‘thanks again’ so as to acknowledge the repeat kindness. In any case – it’s not you having to thank twice, so you can’t do much about it.

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