Open Thread

by epi on March 26, 2012

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This open thread is your space to use as you like. We invite you to discuss current and traditional etiquette. Feel free to ask questions of each other and the community moderators here.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

J. Smith March 26, 2012 at 4:28 pm

I work for a small company owned by a married couple. I was called into a meeting by my boss (male) and entered the room immediately before my other boss (female). My boss (male) and my coworker (male) were sitting when I entered and remained seated the entire time. There was one open chair in the office, which I stood back from for approx. 90-120 seconds, giving my boss (female) the opportunity to sit. She remained standing, giving me the impression she wasnt going to stay or sit, so I sat down. I was immediately criticised for my manners and rudeness for not offering her the seat before I sat down.

Was I wrong to do so?

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J. Smith March 26, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Also, I am male, and was the youngest in the room.

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Just Laura March 26, 2012 at 5:05 pm

In my experience, one offers the lady the seat, thereby giving her the opportunity to make her own decision about sitting or standing. I feel this can work for either gender, though. I always ask if the person would like to take a seat. That way he or she may say, “Oh no, I’ve been sitting all day and prefer to stand now” or may reply with, “I do, but don’t want to see you stand. Let’s see if we can find another chair.” We shouldn’t assume we know what others are thinking.

That said, if I were your coworker, I would have taken the initiative to locate a fourth chair to seat everyone called to the meeting.

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Winifred Rosenburg March 26, 2012 at 10:55 pm

Actually the usual gender-specific etiquette never applies in business settings so her being a lady would have no bearing on what he should or shouldn’t have done here. As Jerry suggested, age also doesn’t have an effect. However, the safe thing would probably have been to offer her the seat just in case, or find another chair as Laura suggested.

That being said, Jerry is right that the person who criticized you was WAY out of line.

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Jerry March 26, 2012 at 5:24 pm

No, if you waited two minutes before she sat down. (In fact, I would have responded to the criticism by alerting everyone that you waited two minutes. I then would have asked why someone would call a four person meeting in a room with only three chairs.) The fact that you were the youngest in the room is irrelevant: you are either a professional or you are not.

The situation presents some other problems, though. Who criticized you? Was it your male boss? If yes, start looking for a new job as he set you up to fail. Was it your female boss? Look for a new job as she set you up to fail. Was it your male co-worker? Pull him aside and tell him that he is never to publicly criticize you again.

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Elizabeth March 26, 2012 at 6:01 pm

My assessment of the situation falls somewhere between Jerry’s and Laura’s. I think the key piece of information here is that it was your female boss and not a female coworker. She is in a position of power in the room, and the onus was on her to direct the situation, either by sitting, or suggesting that you get another chair. It may be the case that she is inexperienced, feels bad about asserting herself, or was simply spaced out in that moment (or perhaps didn’t realize how long the meeting would last), and so she didn’t say anything or act by sitting.

I do think it’s important in questionable situations like this, to act courteously and explicitly – I think it was an error to assume her wishes, and so it would have made sense to ask upon walking in the room whether you should grab another chair.

In the moment when you were criticized, the right way to handle it would have been to immediate stand, apologize to your boss, and say something like, “I’m sorry I just assumed you wanted to stand. How silly of me, let me grab another chair.” Nothing is to be gained by pointing out that you waited- the right thing to do was to ask. You show yourself as professional by not letting situations escalate, taking responsibility by lightly apologizing and quickly moving on. There is NO benefit to be gained by escalating the situation (by aggressively asserting yourself as the youngest member of the group, and the employee in a meeting with your employer).

So, to answer your question – I don’t think you were rude, but I don’t think you handled it optimally. Whoever criticized you was rude, they should have said – “Oh, hey J. would you mind grabbing a chair for FemaleBoss?”

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Chocobo April 6, 2012 at 10:53 am

There is no gender in the workplace, therefore you were not rude in sitting down before a lady.

However, I think a minor faux-pas was still committed on your part. One always defers to one’s superiors. In social life, this is charmingly ranked by age, gender, and sometimes position (usually meaning someone with a title: a person holding office, a judge, a high-ranking military official). It can get pretty complicated trying to figure out how to introduce people on this system, but there it is.

Thankfully in business it is much more clear who is your superior: your boss. Gender, age, and other factors do not exist. Since both the man and the woman are your superiors, you should have deferred to them and asked if you should sit down, or found another chair, or offered them the chair first. You did that to some extent by hanging back, which was clearly misinterpreted, but it will be safer for you to explicitly ask in the future. This seems like a rather minor offense to me in the grand scheme of things, but perhaps something to keep in mind for the future.

I’m much more shocked that someone criticized your manners at work, especially over such a silly thing as a chair. That’s outrageous.

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Mother-of-the-Bride March 26, 2012 at 11:50 pm

My daughter’s wedding invitations are all ready to be mailed– including being sealed and stamped. I just realized that we forgot to say anything about the reception! The reception will immediately follow the ceremony in the same location. There are about 250 invitations to be sent. What should we do??

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Alicia March 27, 2012 at 7:49 am

Open the envelopes add a reception card and then reseal the envelopes. Better then having to send the reception cards seperatly.

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Mother-of-the-Bride March 27, 2012 at 8:16 am

How do you open the envelopes without tearing them? Suggestions for resealing?

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Alicia March 27, 2012 at 8:40 am

Two options
1. Steam them open and reseal with a glue stick
2. Open with a letter opener and use new envelope

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Mother-of-the-Bride March 27, 2012 at 9:03 am

FYI…about 1/2 (~130) of the invitations are going to people in other states, etc., that will be very unlikely to attend. About 70 invitations are to people in our church, and we are also going to do an open invitation in the church bulletin. So “reception to follow” could be included there. So, I’m wondering if we need to insert a reception card?

What about printing up a really nice address label–in script and on clear labels–to put on the top center back of the envelope? It could say “Reception to Follow.” I’m thinking that although it would be unconventional, it would look better than to have opened the sealed envelopes. We can’t afford to use new envelopes as postage has already been applied.

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Winifred Rosenburg March 27, 2012 at 10:26 am

Reception cards are needed only if the reception is in a different location from the ceremony. “Reception to follow” on an invitation means the reception will be at the same address as the ceremony very shortly after the ceremony ends.

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Alicia March 27, 2012 at 9:25 am

Well if you do not send out a recepetion card either in the same or different envelope you will not actually be inviting them to the reception. People travel to weddings out of state all the time. But they are much less likely to attend if they thing they are invited to the ceremoney but not the reception which is what the current mistake has them invited to. They would also be rude to question why they are not being invited to any hospitality and the polite guest who is hurt by being asked to travel to a different state to witness a wedding but not being invited to the reception will simply decline send a gift and think that the bride and groom really only wanted their gift not them to attend. They would be rude to mention it to the happy couple or their immediate family. So you will not know how many people think that they are not wanted by this mistaken job of stuffing envelopes.
Stamps for 250 reception invites is only $11 so depending on the cost of the card an envelopes you are likely out less then $50 if you send out seperate cards. This is a small cost in the relm of 250 invitations which probably means around 500 or more guests(not counting the guests that will be unable to predict how many will show due to the general open invite of the church. Then you will actually be inviting these guests to the reception. So yes the cost of this mistake is
1. Open and close the envelopes and add a reception card
2. Use new envelopes and postage and add in reception card
3. Send a second mailing with the recption info

A sticker on the back will be missed
Failing to invite people to the reception will be hurtful to those you are trying to be kind to and will cause fewer people to travel to the wedding.
Sorry I know there is no easy answer but that is what the result of this mistake is. Sadly sometimes cleaning up our mistakes is a hassle.

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Mother-of-the-Bride March 27, 2012 at 9:37 am

I appreciate the reply. I might also note, however, that the cost of 250 stamps is $110, not $11. :) Also, when you suggest steaming open the envelopes, exactly how do you do that?

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Elizabeth March 27, 2012 at 9:57 am

You could try opening one up using your iron on it’s steam setting. Who knows if it’ll work, or if it won’t ruin the envelope, but it seems worth a try.

What about sending a separate postcard? Make it colorful, use humor, “Oops! We forgot to mention the reception! …” and postcards are cheaper to send than full envelopes. The other option is, of course, simply calling everyone on your list individually to let them know about the mistake.

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Alicia March 27, 2012 at 9:59 am

I’ve done it in the past using a clean facecloth over the envelope and my garment steamer .

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Winifred Rosenburg March 27, 2012 at 10:33 am

I would use the calling idea. Since the reception is at the same location really the only information people need is that there is a reception. By the way, you aren’t the first to make this mistake. On Friday I got an invitation to a wedding that contained no mention of the reception. On Monday I got the reception card they forgot to include in the invitation. :) In their case, it was in a different location from the ceremony so the card was necessary.

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Mother-of-the-Bride March 27, 2012 at 10:56 am

Would an email with a reply requested be acceptable (instead of phone calls)?

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Winifred Rosenburg March 27, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Yes, it would! The invitation should be mailed but supporting information can be emailed.

Mother-of-the-Bride March 27, 2012 at 10:05 am

Thanks for the suggestions. If the steaming doesn’t work, I like the postcard idea. I guess that those should be addressed exactly like the invitations (i.e., with everything written out and no abbreviations, except for titles)?

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Maggie March 29, 2012 at 12:54 am

I honestly don’t think you need to worry about this too much. These days, with more modern and informal affairs, I’m often invited to weddings that don’t make a point of separately inviting me to the ceremony and the reception. Usually, you’re just invited to the wedding as a single celebration. It’s pretty rare to be only invited to a ceremony or reception. Those who extend such invitations are the exception and have to be careful to make the limited nature of the invitation clear.

Since the reception is in the same place immediately thereafter, I think you could probably just mention it on the program. At most, I would send an email or mention the oversight to some close family and friends. Perhaps mention it on the wedding website. Word will spread and most people will probably be surprised to even learn that the reception card was missing.

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