25 Comments

  1. Becky

    I realize that I am fairly new to this blog, but I am enjoying myself greatly. I didn’t realize what manners and etiquette I was lacking until now! I am learning, though.

    My question is for an issue I have encountered at work. I work part-time for a family-run company that has been around for almost 50 years. We have about 70 employees, mostly male, and the 11 ladies employed here are mostly clerical, with a few exceptions in our management positions. One lady, whom I will call Amy, is our COO. Her daughter is pregnant. I have worked here 2 years and do participate in company outings and functions, like luncheons, where I am included equally. All other ladies, including those who have worked here less than 6 months, have been invited to the girl’s baby shower. I was not. (I also have a control-freak coworker who I have caught spreading rumors and lies about me and who has been confronted and warned about it by multiple parties–so this may have something to do with why I was not invited.) I do genuinely get along with all the ladies here, with the above noted exception, so you can imagine how hurtful this was. I know the girl as well as, if not better than, some of those women invited. I shurgged this off as an “oh well” situation, but then the need for etiquette advice came the other day.

    I was in a staff meeting with the other ladies of the company (almost all of us work in the same department) when I was asked where my money was. I inquired as to what money they were talking about, and they told me that I was expected to chip in $50 (that I do not have since DH and I live on one income and must budget everything) for a baby shower gift. I replied (without thinking, I admit) that I was not invited to the shower and that I didn’t think it was fair to ask me to contribute when I wasn’t a big enough part of her life to not be included. After a couple awkward seconds, they still indicated that they wanted to buy such-and-such and that my donation was expected.

    What do I do? Was I right in refusing? It’s alot of money for my husband and I to just have on a whim missing from our budget and I feel that it was tacky of these women to ask even after learning I was not invited.

    • Becky, I’m sorry to hear this.
      You have done nothing wrong. To be coerced into giving money at work is bad enough (whether or not you can afford it isn’t any of their business). But to be forced into giving “up” the corporate ladder (I assume your COO is above you), and on top of that, for a party to which you were not invited? I would have laughed out loud.
      I happen to like what you said about the fairness of asking you to contribute. You’re right. If pressed again, I’d repeat your statement, or something along those lines.

      “Perhaps you weren’t aware, but I wasn’t invited to the shower. Last I checked, no one has to buy shower gifts for a person if not invited to the shower. By the way, are the men being asked to contribute as well?”

      I think they are viewing this along gender lines, and that is unprofessional.

    • Country Girl

      Welcome to the blog Becky! =)

      I feel for you in this situation, although it seems you were able to maintain your composure fairly well. The only response necessary to such a terribly rude request is simply a look of shock and “Oh, I would have been happy to chip in, but I was not invited to the shower.” with no explanation needed. The rudeness was on the part of these women to a) bring the matter up at work in front of you knowing you were not invited and b) to demand you contribute anything at all. If these women try to further persuade you, you are perfectly justified in continuing your response. “I was not invited to the shower, so I will not be participating in the group gift.”

      It is sad that this group of women seem so catty. I find it strange that you get along with many of these women, yet none of them stood up for you. Are they possibly feeling bullied as well? If talk of the shower continues at work, I would simply say “Would it be alright if we kept this meeting on task? I know we need to cover xyz today.” I know it is a touchy subject because you must work with these women, but if their chatting about the shower or demanding for contribution still continues after you have requested they stop, you should report this to HR or to someone higher in the company. This is very anti-productive work behavior and borders on harassment. If it is tolerated at your workplace, I would be hesitant to want to continue to work at that company.

      Best wishes to you.

    • Jerry

      You were right. They were wrong. The only thing I would have added when they said “we want to buy X” is “well, then you’re each going to have to chip in an extra $5 or so, won’t you?”

  2. Vanna Keiler

    I completely agree with Country Girl’s assessment and suggestions. Taking it further, I think at this point you should go ahead and open up the door in finding out why you were not invited, since everyone now knows you were not. Perhaps many of the ladies were unaware of this before the meeting and your disclosure. Regardless, since this is a company event (on your level), I would definitely approach your boss AND HR about this issue. I would tell them that you are unsure why you are not invited, if there is something (professionally) you may have done, or been said to have done to create this awkward situation, and if you should be concerned. Covering your tail and job security should be your top priority, and if it is nothing but petty trivialty why you were not invited, your boss and superiors will be made aware through your enquiry and probably shrug it off themselves, or for the sake of office peace have the planners invite you formally to smooth things over. That is what I hope your company would do, in any case. Good luck Becky!

  3. Jerry

    My wife spells her name in an unusual fashion and most people get it wrong the first time. However, once people see it written . . . well . . . it’s fairly easy to correct.

    One of my wife’s vendors (i.e., someone who is trying to get business from her company) consistently errs in spelling her name. Now my wife has previously given this guy a business card and has her name spelled correctly in the signature block and other locations in her e-mail. Yet, for whatever reason, he keeps spelling her name wrong.

    I told her that the next time this vendor sends an e-mail with a misspelled name she should correct him: “[Vendor]: please note that my name is spelled ‘XYZ.’ You may refer to the signature block of my e-mail for the correct spelling.” She is less confrontational than I and asked for some authority. So I’m sending this to the EPI blog. I promise I won’t respond (positively or negatively) to anyone who disagrees with me unless you want to suggest that the vendor doesn’t have access to the correct spelling. For purposes of this discussion, the vendor has access to all of the information he needs.

    • Jerry,
      Because this person is soliciting your wife for her company’s business, I am frankly surprised he hasn’t taken a moment to correct the spelling of her name. I agree with your suggestion. Had your wife been soliciting him for his business, I would suggest ignoring the typo.

      The only reason I can think of explaining why he would continue to misspell her name is if he uses a screen reader (usually used by the visually impaired or those with visual processing issues). This is increasingly common these days.

    • Zakafury

      Spot on, Jerry. I hope your wife avoids a self-deprecating lead in and just quotes you right into an email.

    • Nina

      Jerry, I think your advice is fine. There’s nothing rude about correcting an error–she could include exactly what you say in a note about other matters. I don’t that’s confrontational at all–it could prevent a mixup with documentation down the line. Besides, everyone likes to see their own name correctly (mine’s apparently “hard” too!)

    • Country Girl

      I have this same problem, with clients and salespeople alike, who actually assume my first name is short for a different name, then presume to use this “full version” (of what is not-in-fact my name) to address emails to me.

      Spelling a prospective client’s name correctly is sales 101, and in fact, spelling the name of anyone with whom you work correctly is actually business 101. When unsure, as you mention a quick check of the business card, subsequent emails, or even an internet search or call to the company can typically clear things right up. One mistake can be somewhat forgiven, but since this vendor neglected to correct the spelling even after receiving a reply email, I’m sure your wife is questioning his attention to detail and how that would translate to working with him.

      Your advice is good, but if she wants to be less confrontational, then she can always begin her next email by saying “I know it is an unusual spelling, but my name is actually spelled Betti with an i.” Once he realizes his mistake, hopefully this will be a learning lesson to this vendor in earning credibility with a potential client.

    • Ashleigh

      Not sure what email system your wife uses for work, but I believe Outlook has a feature where you can set up your contact information and include a link that says “Add me to contacts.” If she has the ability to do so, she could say something like “Please see link below to add my contact information to your address book.”
      It’s possible that he added her to his contact book, spelled her name incorrectly in the entry and just copies what he has every time. My email address IS my name and I sign every single email with my name and yet I have people who get my name continually wrong so I definitely understand the irritation.

  4. Linda Moore

    My husband and I were invited by phone to a family event out of town. We were not given enough information about where to meet-just the name of a nationally known chain store’s parking lot. No time but that of the event was given. We looked the store up online in the appropriate town and printed out a map and directions. We arrived an hour and twenty minutes before the start time of the event. We saw no one come and received no calls on our cell phones. They had my number.
    My question is, whose rightful responsibility is it to call if connections are not made?
    This was purchase of a gift, 5 hrs. out of our day and gas and wear on the car. We also had to end up buying a meal out because of the hour.

    • Linda,
      I’m not going to excuse what they did, but it was your responsibility when they called to get all the information you needed. They can’t read your mind and know that you didn’t know enough about the event.
      In addition, if they had your number and you’ve received calls from them, then you also had their numbers. Something may have changed, and perhaps they didn’t know to notify you – since you went so far out of your way, you should have taken initiative to call them (if only to save yourself time). Yes, it is too bad they didn’t get in touch with you, but you can only control your actions, not those of others.

    • Marilyn

      I am a bit confused. Did no one ever show up?
      Although the “organizers” seem disorganized by not providing a specific address and meeting time, it’s unclear to me why you didn’t clarify this information with them. If you are tech savvy enough to look up the location and directions online, then you should also have known how long the trip would take. Why would you arrive at an event an hour and 20 minutes early?
      Is there any possibility that you went to the wrong place? Some chain establishments have multiple locations in a town. It’s also possible that you thought you were at the location in town X but you really were in town Y. Municipal zip codes don’t always reflect municipal boundaries.
      Sometimes people discuss events but it’s not really set in stone yet. Perhaps this was a tentative event that you needed to confirm later?

    • Jerry

      My parents taught me to look both ways when crossing the street, even if I had the light. Why? Well, because even if I had the right of way a rogue driver could blow through the intersection and hit me. And even though I would have been “right,” I still would have been hit by a car! But, if I employed minimal effort and looked both ways before crossing the street, I could save myself a world of aggravation.

      The analogy applies here: you had people’s phone numbers. You could have and should have employed minimal effort (ideally before leaving the house) to find the information you needed. It was absolutely not your family’s obligation to call to see where you were. For all they know, you were the flake and not the other way around!

  5. Linda Moore

    Thank you all for your takes on this. I apologize for leaving out that when my cousin called to invite us, she said she had to get more information and would call us back. This never happened. We were quite upset when we got home and tried to include everything in my question to you.
    I agree that no one should read your mind about how much info you need. I told her we were not familiar with the town only to get off the exit and eat at a restaurant right at the interstate.
    What happened was there were two of the particular store we were supposed to meet at, but we didn’t know that. We are wondering if they knew that.
    Marilyn, we didn’t arrive at the event an hour and twenty minutes early. We arrived at the meeting place (or so we thought) at that time so we would be sure to see them arrive. From there the men would go one way and the women would go together to the bridal shower. Oh, and my cousin didn’t know the name of the place it was being held at the time she called me-again said she’d get back to me with the info.
    Why should an invitee have to do so much research to attend something, anyway? My cousin is the mother of the groom! She also lives out of town from where we were meeting.
    P.S. I had not received prior calls from them on my cell phone.

    • Alicia

      Yes they should have given you better info. But yes you should have called up cousin and said “Hey, I’m confused what time are we meeting exactly and what is the address?”
      So yes they messed up but you messed up more by making assumptions rather then polite questions.

  6. Ali

    Hello! I just found this blog recently but have really enjoyed reading through so many great questions and answers! I have a question of my own that I’ve been struggling with for the past couple of days:

    I have an acquaintance who lost her mother to cancer three months ago. I haven’t seen this acquaintance in a few years and did not attend her mother’s funeral (she is a friend of a friend and our paths only occasionally cross) but I did send a sympathy card to her house when I heard the news. Just recently I was invited to an event where I will see her for the first time and am wondering the best way to acknowledge her loss in person. It has been a few months since her mother’s passing but since I only sent a card and have not seen her in person, is it appropriate to express my condolences again when I first see her or would that be overkill at this stage?

    • Zakafury

      You should avoid the subject, in case she isn’t comfortable having it on her mind during the event.

      When you greet her, ask a very kind “How are you doing?” If she does want to talk about it, or thank you for the card, she can bring the subject up. Then, you can repeat your condolences in person.

      • Ali

        Thanks so much for your input! Yes my concern was that she may not want to be thinking about it in a social setting and me bringing it up may make her sad. I’ll go with the “How are you doing?” and see where she takes it from there.

  7. Linda Moore

    Another thing, the son lives in the town where we were to meet and attend the shower, so his mother, my cousin (whom I just met in 2010) has visited him there.

    • Zakafury

      It’s a shame that you ended up wasting your day like that. There was a real break down in communication, and much of that is the host’s fault. Hopefully the shower was planned by a bridesmaid who’s ability to get in touch with her friend’s fiance’s mother’s cousin they recent met was the issue. Especially if that’s the case, the wedding invitations should be much clearer. I hope you have a marvelous time at the ceremony!

      You also asked, “Why should an invitee have to do so much research to attend something, anyway?” One shouldn’t. You would have been blameless in skipping the shower, although you should have called to cancel your RSVP.

      I dislike talking on the phone, and I don’t particularly like asking for help. Still, I would not have driven five hours to an unconfirmed location where I planned on waiting an hour and a half to run into people I wouldn’t necessarily recognize for the privilege of giving a gift in person to someone I do not know. It seems a little absurd to go so far out of your way without knowing it would work, doesn’t it?

  8. Alicia

    No not overkill during the how have you been conversation that tends to happen just say something like ” I just wanted to say again how sorry I was to hear of your moms passing .” Metion but do not dwell on it
    People do not get over these things instantly and she will appreciate your thoughtfullness.

    • Ali

      Thanks for the advice! I agree that it’s definitely something not to dwell on so I am going to take my cues from her when I ask how she’s been.

  9. Linda Moore

    Thank you Zakafury! However, we drove only an hour away from home. The five hours referred to included travel time, waiting time and time for lunch before heading home.
    And I had met all the people involved, so they would be recognizable.

    Its amazing how attractive typing a question to a website and expecting an answer is. I think the written word is so interpretive and somehow the details become fuzzy when trying to impart them to someone who doesn’t know the situation. I have been amused by the different takes people have given us.

    We have decided not to do this again. We will be sure to have all information before leaving the house.
    Thank you for your input, everyone.

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